Top 20 Films of 2011

As 2011 comes to a close is it my obligation as a film blogger to put together my pick of 2011’s releases. I’ve gone for my top twenty as narrowing it down to just ten would be too harrowing a task and my only rule is that they must have been released in UK cinemas during 2011. This takes us from The Next Three Days (absolutely not in the list) to The Lady and The Artist and is only limited to films I have seen. I’ve also chosen not to speak to the wider Mild Concern team, mostly due to laziness, barring watching Waste Land at Kat’s insistence. This was a decision I have come to regret considering the rambling you will find below.

The scene properly set, let’s get onto the list. Looking back 2011 has been a great year for cinema, here are my top 20 releases of 2011:

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – DVD review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 DVD

This isn’t the end. Pop the film disc for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 into your DVD player and once past the obligatory copyright notice, first you will see an advert for the Lego games for years five to seven, and then the introductory video for Pottermore. So every time you’re reminded of tiny Harry, all wide eyes in Philosopher’s Stone, and start welling up a little at the idea that it’s finishing, you can always book your studio tour during a break in watching your Elder Wand DVD boxset and know that this franchise isn’t going anywhere.

But even while I am cynically half-expecting a reboot to be announced within a year, I was hard-pressed to stay completely dry-eyed while watching this two-disc package. We’ve reviewed the film itself pretty extensively so this post will focus on the special features. Like Part 1, the one difference between the Blu-ray and DVD is the Blu-ray version has Maximum Movie Mode, which interrupts your film-watching with extra behind-the-scenes information. It’s a shame there isn’t a more conventional commentary, which would be informative without being overly intrusive.

The Special Features disc is more satisfying, if not exactly overflowing with extras, and there are adverts scattered all throughout as if someone watching might actually be surprised that it was possible to get the other seven films on DVD and Blu-ray too. The Focus Points section contains nine behind the scenes featurettes (well, eight and a soppy farewell sequence) which provide interesting extra details on different aspects of the film, such as the Room of Requirement set, the Molly and Bellatrix fight and evolution of the costumes.

The most meaty feature is the 45 minute When Harry Left Hogwarts – a documentary with some behind the scenes coverage and a lot of banter and reflection on what Potter has meant to everyone. An air of melancholy colours all of their musings – Emma Thompson recommends therapy for the “kids”; Julie Walters declares the set as one of the least dysfunctional places they could have grown up on. Of Radcliffe, Grint and Watson, Emma is by far the most eloquent and thoughtful an interviewee, but all of the young adults speak about the pressure of being child stars and how it feels with the world waiting for them to screw up and what they have missed out on through not having a “normal” life – while all the time emphasising how happy they are and grateful for the opportunity. It’s also evident how much work the Harry Potter franchise has provided for people and I was left fretting about what the setbuilders and stunt people are going to do next. Stick with it through to the closing credits though, which might be my favourite part of the whole disc.

The Women of Harry Potter left me feeling similarly sad, even as Joanne Rowling speaks of being rightly proud of creating a wide range of well-rounded female characters. It’s the interviews with the dwarves in the main documentary and the additional The Goblins of Gringotts that provide a bit of relief from all the goodbyes and retrospection. This is partly down to getting to see Warwick Davis chat as himself and not as his Life’s Too Short character, but also because all of the actors playing goblins seem so good humoured and the excitement of Warwick Davis’ kids is very cute.

Apart from these features (and more adverts) there are eight deleted scenes, which are mostly small character moments that would have added a bit more emotion to the film’s existing action, including Tonks and Lupin reuniting on the Hogwarts’ battlements and a Ginny and Harry moment that I found more touching than any kiss they had in the films.

If you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t want this DVD in some form, whether it’s to join your existing seven others, or if you intend to buy all eight in one set. Although then you have to choose between a no-frills version, or a special numbered edition, or whether to hold on for a year if you believe the rumours of the “Ultimate” boxset, expected to come out at the end of 2012. (I told you the franchise wasn’t going anywhere).

And if you haven’t followed these films from Philosopher’s Stone to Deathly Hallows, I have no idea why you’re still reading this. You definitely don’t need me to tell you this isn’t the purchase for you.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Friday. And then gets recalled on 29th December. Then will get re-released again and again and again ad infinitum.

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Films

You may remember that last month we spent two nights at the BFI IMAX watching all seven Harry Potter films over the course of two nights. (Thanks BFI IMAX!) We finished our journey through the franchise on Monday night as we watched and scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. What follows is a run down of all eight films, written using the increasingly brief and incoherent notes we made at the time. Spoilers lie ahead.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
philosophers stone

In which Harry Potter learns he is a wizard, goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and defeats a teacher harbouring the evil wizard Voldemort at the back of his head.

We start the franchise with an over-long film with terrible acting, odd prosthetics and scenes bordering on pantomime. From the initial scenes with the Dursleys playing out as a knockabout comedy to the final showdown in which a man completely disintegrates, Christopher Columbus produced a completely uneven film which relies mostly on reaction shots for laughs. Horrible acting from the kids is made up for by sheer cuteness and ultimately the film is a bit better than you remember. 6/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
chamber of secrets

The series continues with Harry hearing voices and writing in a diary which writes back. Turns out that pesky diary was Voldemort again.

As the kids seem to have experienced a growth spurt since the previous film they are less cute and their acting has improved slightly to compensate. Early scenes at the Burrows with the Weasley parents are great but even Julie Walters can’t make exposition work properly. Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh are pretty awesome but Christopher Columbus again fails to make anything remarkable happen. With students being attacked (but surviving) the series begins its journey into becoming “dark”. 6.5/10
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Review

For the past three hours I have actively avoided writing this review, struggling to stay objective and discuss the film as if it were any other. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could have been just another children’s fantasy adventure, yet another sequel and an adaptation of a previous work, but subjective sentiment and a decade of fandom aside, this is one hell of a film.
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Potter! Potter! Potter! Potter! Potter! Potter! Potter! Potter!

Are you ready? 10 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone arrived in cinemas, and 14 years since the first book was published, the final film of a record-breaking and cast-retaining franchise is finally on release. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has gradually become more than just another film, it now symbolises a huge achievement in British film-making and a symbolic end to so many people’s childhoods. We grew up with the boy wizard and his last stand is a final hurrah for a childhood friend.

But enough of this sentimentality! We can save all that for next week, now is the time for excitement, just look at that header. We still need to make sure you are fully prepared for the final film, we don’t want anybody saying they didn’t like the film because they couldn’t remember what was going on. Your first port of call is our superb retrospective of the series so far (with charts!) and the two videos we offered up as vital Potter prep, explaining where we left off and exactly what a horcrux is.

For any doubters we have a glowing review from Mark Kermode (whose Radio 5 live show is not on this week due to industrial action).

And to finish one last video to get you up to speed as Daniel Radcliffe and co. explain the plot of The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

To watch this video, you need the latest Flash-Player and active javascript in your browser. Or you need to get out of Google reader and onto the site itself!

Now we just need to watch the damn thing!

Out Now – 14th July 2011

Don’t worry, we’re not going to repeat that joke we made when Scott Pilgrim came out and pretend we aren’t wetting ourselves at the thought of seeing the final Harry Potter films. However, there are other films out today which deserve our attention so we will remain reserved for at least the next hour.

Bobby Fischer Against the World
Let’s face it, any film going up against the boy wizard is going to have to be targeting a completely different audience. A documentary detailing the “tragic and bizarre life” of a chess champion.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Your childhood ends here.

Cell 211 (limited release)
Yet another prison drama. This time looking at a riot from both sides of the revolt.

Hobo with a Shotgun (limited release)
A homeless gentleman takes on crime with the help of his shotgun. Expect a tight film filled with laughs and gore. Lovely.

Treacle Jr. (limited release)
UK film about an unlikely friendship. The IMDb synopsis is unreadable but I saw a clip earlier in the year and it looked OK. Pulitzer please.

Bal (Honey) (limited release)
A young boy’s father fails to return from harvesting honey… and the plot goes from there. This ain’t Harry Potter.

Just Do It (limited release)
Documentary on environmental direct action. Bloody hippies.

Harry Potter Premiere Live Stream

From 4pm today (right now!) the UK’s biggest ever film premiere is taking place from Trafalgar Square up to Leicester Square. In case we haven’t drilled it in enough by now, the premiere is for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and we’re very excited. Below you can watch the whole event streaming live from the safety of your desk. It certainly beats camping out in London for three nights.

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Prepare Yourself for Harry Potter

With just over a month to go until my childhood officially ends I think it is appropriate to begin to get excited about the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series. Just look at the trailer, it’s enough to make you feel like you’ve been hit with a flipendo spell. (NERD ALERT!)

Clearly in the same mindset the BFI IMAX in London has a very exciting event planned. Harry Potter All-Nighters! Split over two nights, and repeated on a second weekend, the BFI IMAX will be showing all seven current Potter films in the wee hours to get you ready for 15th July. The first four are shown in one block on either 17th or 24th June and the remaining three on 18th or 25th June.

I’d suggest doing the 17th and then the 25th, it takes a brave Potter fan to do two consecutive nights. I also suggest that you take me with you, I make great company. Tickets can be bought here and I’ll keep myself free.

As we’ve got you here we’ve uploaded the eight character banners we couldn’t figure out what to do with last week. Finally! A ridiculously high res poster of Neville Longbottom! Check out all eight below. Continue reading