Here at AccessReel we pretty much review whatever is out there. Which is how I ended up seeing MELANCHOLIA on a recent Saturday morning and then the third ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS movie less than 24 hours later. However, sometimes our natural preferences mean it makes more sense for our Editor to send one reviewer instead of another. For example, I am not the Transformers guy. Sending me to review TRANSFORMERS 3 would have resulted in a long angry diatribe against Michael Bay and his crimes against cinema. And isn’t that what we have Facebook for?
I am not the go-to guy for the “tent-pole pictures” or blockbusters. I enjoy them, but often can’t find much to write. For example, I just saw MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4 and my review would be this. “Do you want full-on relentless action for two hours? See MI4. Stat.” And since I get paid by the word, that simply doesn’t cut it. Kidding! I don’t get paid at all; we’re all about the barter system here at AccessReel. For every review I write, they give me a classic VHS cassette. I’m currently halfway through Series 2 of the original THUNDERCATS.
All of this is a roundabout way of explaining why there are so few of the big Hollywood movies in my Top 10. More often than not I didn’t catch up with them. You’ll see them pop up in the lists of my fellow reviewers. Or so they have led me to believe.
So, you are bound to take issue with this list and that’s fine. That’s how the Internet works; it’s full of opinionated people knowing that they’re right while sadly everyone else has the taste of a Kardashian wedding. That’s the fun of reviewing for AccessReel. We get to put forth our opinions week after week. I believe the reviewer you always disagree with is as useful as the one with whom you always agree. Either way you have a basis to decide whether or not to suss out a particular movie.
MY TOP 10 FILMS FOR 2011
10. THE BEAVER
Oooh! A controversial start for the Top 10. For some of you this list has already jumped the shark and pole-vaulted the main tank at Seaworld. I get it. Was I overdosing on cold and ‘flu medicine when I wrote this? The short answer is that Mel Gibson does the seemingly impossible in this Jodie Foster directed movie. He made me forget all the disturbing press he’d garnered for his ugly drunken behaviour and he presented one of his best performances in years whilst doing something absolutely preposterous – playing the part of a depressed toy company executive who gains a new lease on life by speaking through the persona of a glove puppet. For more, see the review.
Slow moving, at times depressing and with a dramatic twist you could see coming a mile off. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fourth feature film is a deep, “beautiful” piece of work with a stunning central performance from the noble, suffering brow of Javier Bardem. He plays a small time crook called Uxbal who somehow has a connection with a higher plane. There are loose ends aplenty in this narrative, but in the end Uxbal leaves a lasting impression. See review here.
Sir Ken Branagh’s entry into Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS cycle of movies. Unlike Mad Mel and Noble Javier, Thor, the god of thunder, doesn’t suffer fools, or downbeat human emotions. He’s the swaggering rock star prince from the realm of Asgard whose dad thinks he needs knocking down a peg or two before he can assume his kingly responsibilities. So he is banished to this dowdy dimension and specifically our puny planet. Aussie Chris Hemsworth puts in a solid and very amusing performance as the Norse God who brings us the fourth day of the week. See review here.
7. RED DOG
A red cloud kelpie wanders the Pilbara region of Western Australia in the 1970s. It becomes a legend not for great deeds but for bringing together tough men in difficult conditions. Director Kriv Stenders and the film’s glamorous star Koko create a feel good film with a low-key spirituality running beneath its knockabout exterior. The home-grown box office hit of the year. But you already knew that. See review here.
6. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
A reboot of the beloved 1970s sci-fi franchise. I could have hated this. They started at what was the end of the original film series. James Franco is only slightly more convincing a scientist than he is an Academy Award host. And the timeline feels ridiculous. (Franco and the girlfriend character seem to be engaged for eight years?) But everything else is so well done in Rupert Wyatt’s second feature. The writing. The performances. The effects. It’s an action movie with emotion. You can’t help but be moved when Caesar the chimp fights for his freedom. See review here.
5. CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
In some ways, I found this the most mind-blowing film of 2011. Veteran filmmaker and documentarian Werner Herzog gets exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France. The inside of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave was discovered in 1994 and what was inside went largely undisturbed for 35,000 years. Herzog uses 3D technology to show us the cave’s Palaeolithic paintings. These signs of early humans, captured in almost pristine condition make you think about the passage of time and how much or how little we have changed in tens of thousands of years. See review here.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, but fortunately we have filmmaker Lars von Trier to guide us through this largest of all existential crises. Sisters played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg have to sort out their sibling rivalry before the planet Melancholia either arrives to destroy the Earth or misses it by a narrow margin. This rollercoaster ride of an art film will either thrill you with its bold vision or exasperate you with its over-the-top conceit. Not aimed at audiences hoping to see Bruce Willis save the day. See review here.
The other big Australian film of the year. Based on a true story, SNOWTOWN is the harrowing study of how lost individuals can commit evil acts. First time feature director Justin Kurzel has carefully chronicled the tale of murderer John Bunting who led others to kill for him. The performances are hypnotic and the script by Shaun Grant is a fine piece of work. Not an easy film to recommend because of how brilliantly it captures the ugly truth of the human condition. See review here.
2. HIGHER GROUND
The time is the 1970s. Corinne is married to Ethan and they live a Charismatic Christian community in the U.S. This inside look into a community of faith is something very few of us understand from experience. This film attempts to explain how ‘ordinary’ folks come to live in a way where faith, God and Satan are an every day reality. By searching for the truth and neither condemning nor boosting this world, filmmaker and star Vera Farmiga has created an unusual, indie gem of a film. See review here.
1. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Based on Lionel Shriver’s popular book of the same name, this movie version departs significantly from its source material. Nonetheless, it’s a gripping, challenging piece of filmmaking from director Lynne Ramsay. Tilda Swinton plays Eva, the mother of Kevin. Is she a parent devoid of the expected maternal feelings and instincts or is there something deeply wrong with Kevin? The narrative timeline is intelligently exploded and scene by scene we ponder who is right – Kevin or Eva? Or neither? This detached, yet sometimes very funny film will keep you guessing until the end. See review here.
So that’s my Top Ten for 2011, folks. If you have any complaints please email them to Labby and Stav of Channel 11. The other AccessReelers will be along any moment now to drop their Top Lists. They may choose a Top 5 or a Top 20, who knows? There are no rules with Top Lists. Just opinions. Keep following us on this site, our Facebook page and Twitter for more information and contests.
Phil Jeng Kane