Tim’s Tops of 2011

I’m gonna take a page from my creative partner, Sue, and give a run down of my favorite films of the year; though it appears that we do have a lot of the same films on our list.

1) The Muppets – This movie is sheer joy, and by far the best time at the theater I had all year. Sure you can blame that on nostalgia if you like, but I also believe it was a truly well written and well made film. Seeing my old friends on the big screen again made me laugh and smile. Call backs to the series made me teary-eyed and reminded me of how much fun these characters are. And that’s why we let them into our hearts in the first place.

 

2) The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard – This film is linked in my mind eternally with our site. Jeremy Lalonde the film’s director was kind enough to give us our first interview, and helped us launch our podcast format, and putt us in touch with some wonderful people. Thank you for that! But beyond that, this wonderful Canadian film is witty, fun, and has oh, so much heart. Even now, thinking about my favorite scenes makes me smile, and gives me shivers when I think about the performances. The longing for a DVD of this film may soon be fulfilled, and then everyone can share in it!

 

3) War Horse – A beautiful film made by one of my favorite directors. Spielberg works with an adaptation of the cherished children’s novel and brings to life the story of a horse named Joey who goes to war, and sees the good and the bad on both sides. Spielberg’s magic is on full display here and the film is touched with heart-touching and heart-breaking moments. Everything you’ve come to expect from a Spielberg film.

 

 

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – As stated yesterday in my review, I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, being such a fan of the original novel and film. But Fincher showed a deft hand and delivered a tightly wrapped thriller that was incredibly faithful to the book, and Craig is likable as Blomkvist and Mara’s turn as Lisbeth, while not a carbon copy of Noomi Rapace’s original effort is fairly close and is exactly what you think Lisbeth would behave and act like. Though as a personal side note, I preferred Rapace’s dragon tattoo on her back than the shoulder one given to Mara.

 

5) The Adventures of Tintin – Enjoyable Spielberg fun for the whole family! This film was an enjoyable romp that gave Spielberg his first animated film, as well as his first 3D film. Based on the beloved French comic this film could launch a whole new tent pole series, as long as the big players remain involved, I’m on board. And where else can you see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as identical police officers? Brilliant!

 

 

6) Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II – I just finished rewatching the entire series yesterday, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a wonderful cap to the entire series. In fact this time through it affected me even more emotionally that it had the first time through. It’s easy to brush these off as simple family movies, but from the beginning the books and the films have spoken to the important themes of friendship, loyalty, belief in oneself, and doing what is right. And of course, this film allows for Alan Rickman’s finest performance as Severus Snape, proving what an amazing actor he is.

 

7) Super 8 – The Goonies and Stand By Me meets E.T. and even that comparison does the film a disservice. Lovingly made by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, the film recalls moments from many Spielberg films, and took us back to a time when you didn’t have to lock your doors at night, and neighbors looked out for one another. Filled with a nostalgia that made me recall my own youth, and performances from children who seem able to act beyond their years, Super 8 was, for me, a magical film experience.

 

8) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – I’ve been a huge fan of this series since its launch, and was very eager to see Brad Bird’s first live action film. I was delighted that it paid off as much as it did! What have you got next for me Brad? This is a highly enjoyable spy romp that embraces everything about the original series, updating it for today, and had some truly fantastic sequences. It also saw my favorite character, Simon Pegg’s Benji as a full field agent, hopefully to reappear in the potential sequels with Jeremy Renner.

 

9) Hugo – Martin Scorsese made a truly beautiful film about the love of movies and their origins. Wrapping it in a mystery for a young boy to solve, the film brought to life the early days of cinema. It showed us once again that if a movie is done right, it can transcend popcorn entertainment and revitalize the love of an art form that far too often gets shunt aside in the desire to make a fast buck.

 

 

10) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – An old school cold war thriller, the film is a slow burn that constantly ratchets up the tension as George Smiley attempts to flush out a Russian mole inside MI6. The film had a stellar cast rounded out by the always amazing Gary Oldman, a chameleon of an actor who buries himself in each and every role he takes on. It also didn’t play the viewer for a fool or pander to the audience. A smart spy thriller about an age seemingly long gone.

 

 

So there you have it, my top ten films of the year, I would be remiss however if I didn’t give a few honorable mentions to other films I loved this year…

-Hanna, young actress Saoirse Ronan looks to have a long and amazing career ahead of her.

-Paul, featuring the ever awesome Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two geeks on a cross-country road-trip who have a close encounter. I love these two guys working together, they are always a sheer delight, and I would love to go for a pint with the two of them anytime!

-Source Code, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to Moon, Code was a fun temporal tale featuring Jake Gyllenhaal.

-Thor & Captain America, ramping us up for next year’s Avengers these two Marvel adaptations expanded the growing comic book universe and were good popcorn entertainment.

and finally the surprising X-men: First Class, another comic book film that introduces us to Xavier and Magneto before they turned against each other, both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are top form in this movie and of course there’s January Jones, as Stan Lee might say… ‘Nuff Said

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Sue’s Top Flick Picks of 2011

Now that 2011 is done and gone, and 2012 is finally upon us, I thought I’d take a bit of time to go through the plethora of flicks I saw in theatres throughout the course of the year.  I dug out as many ticket stubs as I could find – yes, I keep them…I am a nerd – and made little piles based solely on my enjoyment/experience of them.  I actually think I saw many more films than I can find the stubs for, but I can’t really remember anything specific, so we’ll just go with these!  I have a top four, and then several ties for what would be number five.  I just can’t choose between them, so I’ll mention them all.  ;)

1.  The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard

This one edged  my number two choice because I saw it twice in the theatre (and I believe it was the only film I did that with this year), and because it affected me so personally, and on so many levels.  The original motivations for seeing it was to support Lost Girl cast members, Kris Holden-Reid and Zoie Palmer, and to throw a bit of support toward Canadian indie filmmakers while we were at it.  Personally, I thought it looked funny, but I didn’t expect to frakking LOVE it as much as I did.  The whole experience – from getting the tickets in advance to watching the opening credits through the Q&A after – every single moment was a joy.  After that, it wouldn’t go away; wouldn’t leave me alone.  The freaking film got inside me and stirred me up, and only grew in strength once Mind Reels got to meet and podcast with director Jeremy Lalonde, producer Anthony Grani, and star Mary Krohnert – with even more to come!  We went back for a second viewing and I found I was even more affected by it the second time around.  Something shifted inside of me because of this movie, and though I can’t articulate exactly what it was, I can’t help but feel a little bit grateful.  I personally can’t wait for the DVD release, just so I can have it with me always.

2.  The Muppets

This only narrowly missed being my number one film of the year, and really only because it didn’t so much change me as it did sustain me.  I haven’t laughed that much in a movie – hell, I haven’t been that HAPPY – in a very long time.  I laughed, I got teary-eyed, I clapped and cheered, I missed my friends, I celebrated their return…everything.  I loved everything about this movie.  It turned me into a kid again, and for a little while, everything was a-okay.  Nothing in the world mattered but those fuzzy critters being back on the screen in front of me, doing what they were created to do.  That’s another one I can’t wait to have as part of my collection.  It just fills me up with smiles.  :)

3.  Young Adult

Here’s a film I deliberately knew as little about as possible going in, but it turned out to be as different from even my limited expectations as possible.  It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody combination, so I certainly knew it would be funny.  But I really didn’t expect Charlize Theron to be as funny as she was, and for my beloved Patton Oswalt to play more of the straight man.  Not that I don’t think that he’s a straight man…there’s…nothing wrong with that.  I just meant I thought he’d be more like the comic relief, or something.  Anyway.  I love how unconventional this movie was, and how much it gave me to think about, and – in a surprising twist – how completely awkward and uncomfortable it made me feel.  I left the theatre with the sense that this latest creation from one of my favourite teams was not yet done with me, and I look forward to our next encounter.

4.  You’re Next

I saw this twisted little home invasion treat as my first Midnight Madness screening of the Toronto International Film Festival.  I don’t know whether it was because it was my first of the year, or because there were so many friends in the revved up audience, or because the film itself managed to balance my internal terror of strangers hiding in my house with some absolute hilarity, but the combination had something right going for it, because that was more fun than should be allowed at a midnight screening.  There were creepy animal masks dotting the audience (to mimic the ones used in the film), there were signs and banners out on the street leading to the theatre, and a packed house ready for a good time.  And You’re Next did not disappoint.  An obnoxious family holds a long-overdue reunion in a massive house location at the corner of No and Where, and before you know it, people are dropping dead all over the place.  With one of the most brilliant kill scenes I’ve ever witnessed, a tale populated with absolutely absurd characters and completely unexpected moments of creative carnage, this film felt like a thrillride and then some.  Time will tell how much of that should be chalked up to a magic combination of one-time-only pieces, versus a truly twisted and fun flick, but for right now, my memory votes it in as one of my faves of the year.

And now for the several honourable mentions…movies I enjoyed that all have that something extra I look for whenever I go into a film:

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:  I had no idea what to expect from this one, never having read the books nor seen the Swedish originals.  So while there were several things that confused me, or made parts of it difficult to follow plot-wise, for the most part, I was engaged and enjoyed this little investigated tale.  The government should either wish they had a Lisabeth Salander finding information for them…or be glad she doesn’t exist to foil their plans at every turn.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2:  I have a Kimie and and Ingrid to thank for really bringing the boy wizard into my world, and this final chapter did not disappoint.  It was a fitting finale to an awesome series.  I came at everything sort of backwards.  I’d seen some of the movies – with some gaps – before I’d read a page of any of the books.  But by the time DH Pt 1 hit the big screen, I’d read them all, and rewatched the movies all in order, so I felt like I at least managed to go into the final film on roughly thew same page as everyone else.  I just…didn’t start out that way.  ;)

X-Men First Class was better than expected, though I wasn’t a fan of the Wolverine cameo, because I felt it took me out of the movie enough that I found it difficult to get back in.  I love James McAvoy, though.  To me, he can do no wrong!

Super 8 was another film I didn’t know what to expect going in, but there was some initial hype that may have ruined some of it for me.  I didn’t have the same nostalgic love for it that most people had.  I actually wondered when I’d gotten so old as to worry about the kids running through a train wreck/explosion instead of thinking about how awesome it looked.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped being able to see kids in danger without being nervous for them instead of excited by their adventures.  BUT, that being said, I was truly impressed by each and every performance turned in by that stellar young cast…they were truly beautiful to watch, and I enjoyed that part of it very much.  I just prefered the moments when they weren’t in mortal danger, is all!

So that’s it…my top 5-8 films of 2011.  From what I remember.  And based on my personal enjoyment and experience of them.  I know there are several that I am looking forward to in 2012, but at the moment, all I can see is Dead Before Dawn 3D and The Hunger Games.  I am so unbelieveably looking forward to both of those that I honestly can’t even see past them to any other movies.  I’ll check back later once I’ve seen each of those in the theatre at least a handful of times!!!

Thank you, 2011 – and Happy New Year!!!

The Immortals… isn’t.

One of the kindest things I can say about The Immortals is that I didn’t hate it. I went into the the theater with zero expectations, and in fact had discussed with fellow blogger Ryan McNeil from http://www.thematinee.ca/ how we both expected to hate it.

Not that either of us went in with an intent to dislike it, it just didn’t seem like there was a lot to it to hold our interest. The genre of sword and sandals seemed to have been done to death already in it’s brief resurrection starting with 300, the abhorrent Clash of the Titans remake, the Conan relaunch, and now this.

One of the driving reasons I did decide to see the film was because of Henry Cavill. I wanted to see him in a lead role before I see him as Superman, a character that has always been very important to me, and though my opinion doesn’t really count to those making The Man of Steel, I wanted to know if he would have my blessing or not.

He does.

He plays Theseus a mortal, gently schooled and nudged on his path by Zeus, disguised as an old man (the always awesome John Hurt). But in the first minute or so on screen, watching him, my brain happily classified him as Kal-El.

Providing Zack Snyder doesn’t drop the ball (*cough* Sucker Punch *cough*) Cavill WILL be Superman. There were moments in his performance where I could not only see Tom Welling’s Clark from Smallville, but the iconic Christoper Reeve as well. And for me, that is saying something. While I may wear rose-tinted glasses concerning the Reeve Superman movies, they helped shape my love for the character, and are partially responsible for my boy-scout attitude towards the world and people to this day.

Mickey Rourke plays Hyperion a grief-driven-to-rage king who wants to find the legendary Epirus Bow to free the caged titans (who lost a war to the currently ruling gods, Zeus and company) and rule all of mankind. Rourke, since the Wrestler has seen a resurgence in his career and though he could probably just walk through the role, he does bring a lot of grief and anger to his Hyperion. He’s vicious, evil, and you have no doubt that he could kick your ass.

But there are a few missed opportunities for characters and actors in the film.

Most notably Frieda Pinto, best know for her turn in Slumdog Millionaire. She seems to be wasted here, with almost nothing to do as the Virgin Oracle. This in my eyes is a loss, because this character could have been so much stronger and had more to do. I love strong female characters and her character Phaedra isn’t one. Sigh.

Luke Evans steps up from the role of Apollo in 2010′s horrible Clash of the Titans to head god Zeus in this film. He and James McAvoy could be related, because there was a moment when I thought he was, though just a little more beefed up.

And I have to say, I think Tarsem Singh (more on him soon) got the gods right in this film, I think they are closer to their original mythological counterparts than Clash made them. They move differently amongst themselves and the mortals, they sit and worry atop Olympus waiting and watching, having sworn that if men were to have faith in them, then they must have faith in men, a concept not really mentioned or touch on in Clash.

And I was happily distracted by my favorite Greek goddess, Athena. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve always had a spot for her. The goddess of war and wisdom (though they would seem to be mutually exclusive) is played by Isabel Lucas, and once again, a strong female character is under-used. In the final battle, while all the forces are battling one another, the majority of the time with the Gods Vs Titans fights are kept to Zeus and Poseidon, and nowhere near enough of Athena kicking ass. But that may just be a personal bias.

To return to the mortals Stephen Dorff, who I’ve always enjoyed no matter the film he does, plays Theseus’ sidekick and ally Stavros. He gets to be slightly rogue-ish in this, and clearly has fun with it, and it’s his actions I believed when Theseus is trying to rally the troops to fend off Hyperion’s army at the climax of the film. Theseus’ speech falls flat for me, but Stavros’ banging on his shield, to build courage and unity with his fellow fighters, I bought into that.

The action sequences are very much in the tradition of 300, it’s bloody, brutal, and well-deserving of it’s R-Rating, a tradition I truly miss. I know that most theater goers nowadays are teens, but I miss the R-rated action movies that used to be a staple of Hollywood(the original Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, First Blood), and now seem to be drifting to the wayside.

Happily director Tarsem Singh didn’t slink away from making it an R film. Singh is a great visual director, he fills his frame with incredible images. Whether you liked The Cell or not, you had to admit that it did look great. The same with his next film The Fall, which I though was fantastic! He uses the film frame as a canvas and paints some fantastic pictures.

That makes Immortals a step above the rest of the sword and sandal ‘epics’ that have come before it since the genre’s rebirth. But is it enough to make you run out to the theater to see it. I can’t answer that for you.

Can I recommend it to you? It’s very pretty to look at, but by the time I left the theater it was already on it’s way out of my system.

What would I have changed? Hmm, I’m all for an actioner, but there was no point in the story where I actually cared for the characters. You’re given maybe 10 minutes at the beginning of the film to get a feel for them, but there’s no real character work, it just moves from one action scene to the next. Too bad…

Though I would like to see more of the battle in the heavens that is hinted at by the end of the movie. But maybe that’s because I’ve been watching a lot of Ancient Aliens lately.

Still, the one thing this movie did do is convince me that Cavill will be awesome as Superman…

til then… I’ll be watching.