As it is the end of another year, I decided to recount my favourite films of the year (that I saw at the cinema), and bring back memories of the shockers that I was also forced to endure. While I’m not the biggest movie-goer, and make no claims to pretend to be a cinephile, there were some films that really stuck out as being amazing. Drum roll please!
THE BEST FIVE
Drive follows the seemingly boring life of Driver (Ryan Gosling), who by day works as a stunt driver and mechanic, but by night works as a getaway driver for criminals. His life appears boring, simple and unfulfilled until he meets his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son, Benicio. When a break-in goes wrong, Gosling and Mulligan become targets by the mob, putting at risk all those that Driver has in his life.
Pretty much everything. Usually I can appreciate terrible chick flicks, as long as they have a cute boy starring in it, but this film exceeded my expectations simply because of the way it was put together. The directing, by Nicolas Winding Refn, was superb, as it managed to both encapsulate the filming of loneliness that Driver felt at the beginning of the film, as well as work in the crescendo of violence and action that eventually led to the big finale. The acting was flawless, with Gosling as Driver in particular, to the point that potential Oscar nomination talk has been whispered. Finally, I enjoyed the 80s vibe to the film, from the tacky racing jacket that Driver wears, to the bright pink writing for the credits, and the quirky, yet catchy, soundtrack.
Almost nothing. The only problem that I had with this film was the scene where Gosling pokes his head around the corner, grinning like a madman, splatted head to toe in blood. Automatically I had a Jack Nicholson in The Shining flashback, which ruined the entire moment for me. Which is saying something, since Christina Hendricks had just had her head graphically blown off.
An unknown disease starts spreading across the world at a rapid pace, with terrifying symptoms that quickly escalate into painful deaths. The film follows different groups and their responses to the epidemic, including the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and their control of both the media’s impact and the spreading of the disease; the World Health Organisation, CDC scientists trying to find a cure, conspirators, and those directly affected by the disease.
Considering this is a film directed by Steven Soderberg, with heavyweight actors Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law starring (although there are at least another six or seven easily recognisable actors also included), this film was always going to be a technical success. Luckily for them, it was also a fantastic storyline. While the idea of a mutant disease spreading the world and killing everyone seems implausible, Soderberg tells the story in such a way, and with such detail, that it soon dawns on the viewer that actually, yes, this is possible. Which was a terrifying thought, particularly since I had to catch public transport home afterwards and all I could keep thinking about were all the germs I was touching and how they could potentially kill me. Also, brownie points for the ending, which managed to both complete the story and leave the viewer going “Dun Dun DUN!” (Or something similar).
The only part of the storyline that I didn’t particularly enjoy or think was necessary was the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow’s character cheated on her husband, Matt Damon, spreading the disease to another city in America. I felt like it was only in there to further our dislike for her character and become de-sensitised to the fact that she had died, but honestly, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow, I couldn’t really see anyone caring that much.
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up to find himself on a commuter train travelling to Chicago, only to realise that he is actually in the body of a stranger, who soon dies when the train suddenly explodes. As the storyline unfolds, we learn that Stevens is actually in the Source Code, which means that he has the ability to live the last eight minutes of a person’s life before they die. He has been sent in by the Army to find and capture the person behind the bombing, before they have the chance to set of a larger, nuclear bomb throughout the city.
What was so great about this film was how it kept the viewer entertained when they could have become so easily irritated by the repetitiveness of re-living the same eight minutes on a train. Gyllenhaal played the character to perfection, and the story arch got more enthralling as the movie played out. Not only did we want to see his succeed, but the eventual ending left the viewer (or at least, left me) both satisfied and utterly perplexed, asking myself; what REALLY happened?
What didn’t work:
The only thing that I can think about is the ending; it was great, but six months on I STILL don’t completely understand it. Anyone care to tell me?
Friends With Benefits
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, as Dylan and Jamie respectively, become close friends after Timberlake moves to New York, and eventually they decide to start sleeping with each other. Except they have promised each other that there will be no romantic feelings involved.
OK, OK so it WAS a predictable chick flick. But so what? The writing was funny, the chemistry (both in and out of bed) between Timberlake and Kunis was addictive and the whole film just appeared to be effortless. YES, we all knew they were going to end up happily ever after, but the journey there had it’s unexpected moments, filled with witty lines, and hilarious co-stars Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson thrown into the mix. And quite honestly, who would have wanted to see Kunis end up with that dick-douche who slept with her and then ditched her? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
The constant reminder that Justin Timberlake is a singer. When he was singing in bed with her, when he rapped, and when he started dancing in his bathrobe (sorry, not sexy). All unnecessary, and I became less attracted to him when I was forcibly reminded that he actually once belonged to a boy band.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two
Surely we all know the storyline to this one don’t we? Harry, Hermione and Ron take on Gringotts and eventually Hogwarts to fight the evil Lord Voldemort and save the wizarding world from inescapable doom.
OK, so MAYBE this one is in the top five for nostalgic reasons, but can you really blame me? I was so excited for this film that I dragged along my tour group to see it with me in Peru. And were any of us disappointed? Of course not. While there were aspects that weren’t included (Dumbledore’s past for example), the film kept true to the books and I think, overall, to the fans. The acting was mostly good, the special effects amazing (to be funded by Warner Bros…) and the ending as epic as anyone expected.
I didn’t particularly like the constant declarations that love is the most powerful magic of all. Pah! But then again, J K Rowling did continually write about this in the series so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Also, the ending. Why was it necessary? And instead of getting similar looking actors, they just tried to age Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Harry by giving them unfortunate hair-dos and an extra 30 pounds. Just awkward.
THE WORST FIVE
Needless to say, Limitless had its limits. I will admit that I went into this film disliking Bradley Cooper, but I also think it’s important to point out that when I walked out 2 hours later my feelings had only intensified. This film was bad on a number of levels, from the bad writing and directing, to the overuse of nauseating special effects, and Cooper’s smarmy, smug acting. Most importantly though, this film made the terrible error of trying to please everyone by being both a thought-provoking film, and an action flick, which of course means that it failed miserably at both.
For a chick flick this film just seemed to go on and on. I will give the film the kudos of having a surprising ending, but that was about all that was good. The characters were unlikeable, particularly Kate Hudson, and while she was meant to be awful, her character was so ghastly that one wondered why Ginnifer Goodwin’s character even put up with her. Also, I disliked that the best friend moved to England, declared his love to her, and then was rejected. Why was this necessary at all? To remind cute best friends that it is best not to fall for your friend because you will eventually be turned down? No thank you.
The very worst bit about this film? Hugh Jackman was involved in it. And before this film I had held him in such high esteems (OK, so I still do). I was disappointed with this film, because, like Limitless, it pretended to be something it wasn’t. I wanted to watch 90 minutes of mind-numbing action of robots beating the shit out of other robots, yet instead I was stuck with this sappy story between the re-building of a relationship between estranged father and son. If I wanted to see a heart-warming, yet vomit inducing film, I would have seen the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
OK, so I walked into this film knowing it was going to be bad. The only reason I had even gone to see it was because we were having a “I want to go to the movies” kind of mood, yet there was nothing showing. Oh, big mistake on our behalf. Long, tedious and ridiculously predictable. Taylor Lautner’s acting was even worse than in Twilight and the script was so bad to the point that it was laughable. And this is coming from someone who enjoyed watching Charmed.
To be honest, I didn’t see this film at the cinemas, and thank goodness for that because it is by far the most atrocious film I have seen in years. It had the potential to be funny, with Jason Segal, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz teaming up together, yet it failed miserably on all counts. It was long, boring, badly directed. The characters were incredibly awful, and Timberlake’s character ridiculous to the point that he seemed unrealistic. Worst was the lack of continuity between scenes, to the point that my friend and I kept looking at each other in confusion because we didn’t know what the hell was going on.
I saw The Lion King in 3D at the cinemas, and despite the fact that I was not 5 years old, and I succeeded in not weeping, the film was as amazing as the first time I saw it.
What did you think? What were the best and worst films of 2011? What are you excited to see in 2012? Please let me know!