Leith’s Top Films for 2011

Leith’s Top Films for 2011

It’s that time of year once again where we see many lists being released comprised of top ten films, comics, or video games. As you’ve seen in recent weeks AccessReel is no different with each reviewer announcing our top 10 films of 2011. Top ten lists are a strange thing for me personally, with so many films offering different experiences across different genres I find it difficult to cut through to ten specific films and even more difficult to rank them. How are you supposed to compare the experience of JJ Abrams resurrecting the 1980’s childhood wonder film with a decade spanning emotional romantic drama?

For me personally the films comprising my list have been selected based on the quality of film, as well as my baseline level of enjoyment from watching them. Unfortunately there are few films which I haven’t managed to catch up with yet due to a busy season of reviewing duties for AccessReel, some of the films that I have missed which may have had an impact on my list include Warrior, The Iron Lady, Real Steel and the Guard.

Following the top 10 are some honourable mentions as well as my personal most disappointing film for 2011.

Leith’s Top 10 Films for 2011

10. Attack the Block

‘Attack the Block’ comes from director Joe Cornish, with a production budget of just $13 million this film tells the story of an alien invasion taking place in a low social-economic area of south London where gangs roam the streets and crime is largely unchecked. This film is comprised of some great performances from a young cast, as well as effective minimalist special effects and a tight script involving social commentary alongside this sci/fi horror which all produce a somewhat unique take on a familiar theme.

9. X-Men: First Class

The quasi reboot ‘X-Men: First Class’ wasn’t the most anticipated comic book film of the year, with the 2011 slate of Avenger related films including ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ this film was a little under the radar. In this X-Men film, Matthew Vaughn delivers his follow up to ‘Kick Ass’, and with it comes an excellent origin tale of the friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr supported by fantastic performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. As the film progresses there are unfortunately a few disappointing moments however for everything that could be improved, there is something done exceptionally well with a script that achieves so much within a modest running time.

8. Pearl Jam: Twenty

Something a little different here, director Cameron Crowe revisits the first two decades of the band ‘Pearl Jam’ with extensive interviews with each member of the group as well as other well-known grunge/rock personalities including Chris Cornell. This is a fascinating documentary film which also explores the late 80’s/early 90’s grunge scene within Seattle. With plenty of archived footage from a variety of bands which formed during that era, this is a must see for all fans of Pearl Jam or grunge music.

7. Drive

This is one film you’ll likely see on plenty of top 10 films for 2011, including Darran’s list. For me this film takes an unoriginal idea and does something very interesting with it. The film is shot in a unique way, the performances of Ryan Gosling, Cary Mulligan and Albert Brooks are excellent, and the soundtrack for the film stayed with me for days if not weeks after viewing the film.

6. Red State

With ‘Red State’ comes the second last film we are likely to see from entertainer Kevin Smith, having left his beloved viewaskewniverse behind with the completion of ‘Clerks 2’, here we see the culmination of everything he’s learned about filmmaking to date with a shooting style that is both interesting and different from his previous films and outstanding performances across the entire cast but particularly from John Goodman, Melissa Leo, and Michael Parks.

5. One Day

‘One Day’ tells the dramatic love story of a couple which spans several decades which the film compresses into a modest running time by updating the audience on the couples lives only for one day on the same date of every passing year. Through clever story telling despite the fact that we only see each character for one day per year there rarely seems to be anything lost from telling this abridged version of their lives. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess manage the dramatic material in the film with great emotive performances, which combined with a clever script and good direction provides an emotionally charged, dramatic film leading to great emotional investment from the audience.

4. Contagion

This film summoned memories of 1995’s ‘Outbreak’, a type of film that hasn’t been very common among main theatrical releases in recent years. Director Steven Soderbergh delivered an interesting and clinical take on the genre which complemented the subject matter. The story telling was compelling and the film includes an all-star cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet.

3. Super 8

JJ Abrams brought to us his love letter to all things Amblin with the film ‘Super 8’. Taking place in 1979 this film re-visits child adventure films of that era and will bring thoughts of ‘E.T.’, ‘The Goonies’, and ‘Flight of the Navigator’ to mind. This film brings with it a sense of childhood wonder, a great soundtrack, and a kind of experience that has been absent from cinema for far too long.

2. Moneyball

Director Bennet Miller followed up his acclaimed 2005 film ‘Capote’ with 2011’s ‘Moneyball’ featuring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all of whom give great performances. This film is based on Billy Beane’s life, but mostly centred on his new approach to professional baseball which is considered to have permanently changed the game. With Aaron Sorkin’s involvement on the screen play along with Steven Zaillian a high quality of writing shines through on the screen. Without anything more than a curious interest in baseball this remained a compelling, enjoyable and interesting film to watch.

1. 127 Hours

While released in the United States in 2010, this film was released into cinemas in Australia during February 2011 and is consequently my 2011 film of the year. Danny Boyle has proven his skill once again with this film which is excellently shot as it seeks to tell the story of Aron Ralston’s near fatal hiking accident which resulted in him being trapped and isolated for over five days before he amputated his own arm in order for a chance at survival. This film includes a stunning performance from James Franco, it is an emotionally charged film about one person’s sheer determination to survive and meticulously recreates the events with great attention to both detail and accuracy as the film is both shocking, and inspiring at the same time. This film received much critical praise but unfortunately did not perform well financially, however for any audience interested in a story about determination and the human spirit to survive, this film should not be missed.

Honourable Mentions

Some honourable mentions for 2011 include Thor, Your Highness, Batman: Year One, The Inbetweeners, Harry Potter, Captain America, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Tin Tin and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Biggest Disappointment

Finally my most disappointing film of 2011 has been without a doubt ‘Green Lantern’. While there are things to like about this film, good performances from Mark Strong and Ryan Reynolds, the use of the wider Green Lantern mythology including the guardians, the planet Oa, and a few other members of the Green Lantern Corps overall this film simply didn’t live up to the mythology. There is a lack of character depth, some clunky storytelling and corny use of the power ring and while I still have hopes for future films based on DC properties such as the Flash and even further Green Lantern films (of a higher quality thanks), I suspect that the results of this film will hold up any film not based on Superman or Batman for some time.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.