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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Out Now – 19th August 2011

This week we have one real treat, sadly on limited release, two shameless cash-ins and some other films I’m about to Google.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D
After three films the original Spy Kids are all grown up and return to pass the mantle to two new little brats. On the plus side there’s Joel McHale, on the downside you get a scratch-and-sniff card. The last time I had one of those I was at a panto.

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Classic comedy starring Alec Guinness in eight roles as a Duke’s relative kills everyone in the line of succession before him. One of the greatest British films of all time according to the BFI, don’t miss it.

Google is terrible for this film but we have our ways. Two loners fall in love online and then go on the run after the guy is suspected of murder. Things get revealed as plot unfolds. Hey look, a trailer.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
After failing to break into the top ten at the US box office, it will be interesting to see how the film does here. Other than that I have nothing more to say. Sue Sylvester isn’t even in it.

In a Better World (limited release)
“The lives of two Danish families cross each other, and an extraordinary but risky friendship comes into bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait.” Also… “violent and disturbing content some involving preteens.” Crikey.

The Guard (limited release)
We saved the best for last. This film is fantastic, go and see it if your local cinema has enough taste to be playing it. Brendan Gleeson plays an unconventional policeman in a genuinely funny crime comedy.

The Guard – Review

During our screening on Monday night there was a power cut and the screening was almost abandoned by venue staff with just twenty minutes left of the film. Despite the need to get home and hide from the riots our fellow critics protested and we got to see how the film ended. In a city with shops burning to the ground it takes a film of a certain quality to keep critics trapped in a Soho basement while the apocalypse is brewing outside.

The Guard in question is Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), an unorthodox Irish Policeman who has little respect for the rules of policing, a penchant for prostitutes and yet is the least corrupt officer in the force. When FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) comes to Ireland to intercept a drug smuggling ring, Boyle and Everett team up and Boyle proves himself to be more useful than expected.

Don’t be mistaken though, this is not a buddy cop comedy. Yes, there is a hint of buddy cops but this truly is Gleeson’s film. Boyle is in 95% of scenes and is the character we get to know in intimate detail. Gleeson easily leads the film, setting the dark tone of deadpan humour early on and earning our sympathy through even his most questionable actions.

Don Cheadle’s is definitely a supporting role but manages to turn his character from the typical hard-nosed fish-out-of-water FBI agent, if such a thing exists, and brings a warmth and humanity to Everett. Not that he isn’t a little lacking in a sense of humour at first, but his character has layers, like an onion… or Shrek. I’ve never been a huge fan of Don Cheadle’s work, (no, not even Hotel for Dogs) but he’s finally won me over.

The Guard is hilarious without being obvious and touching without being schmaltzy. Debut writer/director John Michael McDonagh has crafted a real treat here, 96 minutes of quality cinema to rival his brother’s In Bruges. Back in February we speculated that, “it’s either a crime thriller or a farcical comedy” but in reality it is neither of these and all the better for it. Witty and unique, it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying The Guard.

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The Guard is on limited release 19th August and is awesome.

Sundance Sales

Martha Marcy May Marlene

We didn’t spend the whole ten days of Sundance jealously scrounging for news while stuck in an airless office in grey London. Not at all. But now that the only thing Park City has to look forward to is sub-zero temperatures and a whole lot of snow (ha! Take that, Utah!), Mild Concern sorts through the film sales and picks out the ones to watch out for when some studio exec decides they can see the light of day. (We’re still waiting for Hesher from last year’s Sundance.)

Sundance was a strong festival for Mild Concern favourites. First up (and previously teased): Like Crazy – the long distance relationship drama starring Anton Yelchin and, more importantly, Felicity Jones. We do like to see all this buzz around our fellow East London resident. Don’t forget us when you’re a Hollywood starlet, Felicity.

Having already peeked at the next tip due to this blog’s stalking casual interest in the roles of Ms. Deschanel, My Idiot Brother stars Paul Rudd as a pot-dealing idealist who disrupts the lives of his three sisters in what is hopefully a non-bromance film. At last!

Tired of seeing Paul Bettany wasted in bad films? Or period dramas? Or as English villains? Or as a disembodied voice at the beck and call of Robert Downey Jr? Well how about seeing how he does as a banker? Or at least, Margin Call is set in an investment bank during 24 hours in the financial crisis so we might be extrapolating a bit. It’s a thriller, really! Also looking to enthrall you with numbers and graphs is writer-director newcomer, J.C. Chandor and the combined acting force of Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and President of the Earth, Mary McDonnell.

From an established cast of big names to Homework. Billed as a ‘coming-of-age romantic comedy’, it can only be filled with actors that make me show my age when I ask, “Wait – aren’t they 10 years old?” Case in point: little Charlie of Chocolate Factory fame (Freddie Highmore) and blonde starlet, Emma Roberts, who I haven’t seen in anything since she was 10. It’s got a lot of buzz and has an indie poster. It even has music from The Shins.

Does having celebrity older siblings who have demonstrated how to have a car crash of a youth acting career make you more likely to go about having a similar career in a more sensible manner? That’s probably a question that requires more research (and better editing) but if we take a sample size of one and make that one person Elizabeth Olsen, then the answer is yes. I am weirdly excited about Martha Marcy May Marlene, which stars Olsen as an escapee from a cult and tracks between her time there and her failing attempts to re-assimilate back into her life. Sounds like the girl has made some good choices; just make sure you finish that Psychology degree, Elizabeth – hey, it worked for Portman.

Every time we hear about good stuff that the UK Film Council has done, we get a little sinking feeling because we worry for its future. The Guard, starring Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson, inspires that sinking feeling. Drug smuggling, FBI agents and reluctant Irish village police. It’s either a crime thriller or a farcical comedy! (It’s a thriller.)

I’m rounding this section off with The Details – Elizabeth Banks, Tobey Maguire and Laura Linney. Apparently it’s about the ridiculousness of the every day, involves a raccoon-ruined lawn and is a comedy that isn’t going to provide obvious jokes for a trailer. Got to be worth a look, just for that.

Films about real stuff!

We like a good documentary, we do.

Being Elmo

  • Project Nim opened Sundance and looked at the chimp who was brought up as a human in the 70s. A BBC production, hopefully it’ll go on wider distribution somehow over here. Insert some sort of rambling about the license fee.
  • The advertising world pays the collective rent of Mild Concern, so we’ve got a bit of a vested interest in how marketing works. Morgan Spurlock, creator of Super Size Me, made a film entirely financed by product placement and advertising: Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.
  • Seeing as penguins have already been covered, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey will probably be the second cutest thing you can get in a feature-length documentary. As far as I can tell (my sketchy research could easily be wrong), it’s not been sold yet but it’s all about the fuzzy red one and pretty much guarantees a cinema full of “awwww”s. How could it not be picked up soon?
  • The New York Times has a movie – Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, which presumably does what it says on the tin. I am geekily intrigued.
  • Life in a Day was put together after YouTube users were encouraged to record their day on 24th July 2010, which the film-makers mixed together. Sounds like a marvel of editing.