Top 10 Films of 2011:

From the deep stupor of the long summer days between Christmas and New Years, critics are pulled out of their lethargy and delirium to write-up their top 10 films of the year that was. So am I now, pulled back from my summer stupor, eyes bleary from sunshine, to write my list, before 2011 is no more. So without further delay here is my list of the best films of 2011:

(it is worth noting that this list is subject to change based on the release of further films in 2012)

1. ‘The Tree Of Life’ (Terrence Malick)

It is, in fact, unprecedented in my movie watching life that my most anticipated film coming into a year remains the best film coming out. Then again ‘Tree of Life’ is unlike almost any other film I have ever seen, the only other film that comparatively shares its sheer ambitious vision, could be my 5th favourite film of all-time, Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Terrence Malick’s seemingly vast and complex vision actually comes down to one simple, defining principle, namely: the belief that cinema can represent anything. For those who wish to confine and limit their experience of cinema to identifiable and familiar: subject matter, plot, character development and narrative structure, you will invariably be disappointed, confused and even angry while watching this movie. For this film is unquestionably polarizing, and controversial. If however you share the belief that cinema should have no boundaries and can aspire to art, then I invite you to be adventurous allow yourself to let go of cinematic restrictions and immerse yourself in its abstract beauty. If anything ‘Tree of life’ is an immersive experience, from its profound psychological insights, to its sweeping life-death, macro-micro scale, to its sheer ferocious truth, there is simply nothing like it. 10/10, A+, ****


2. ‘Drive’ (Nicholas Winding Refn)

With ‘Drive’ and ‘The Ides Of March’ Ryan Gosling confirms his position as the ‘so-hot-right-now’, ‘it’ actor of 2011, giving one of most subtlety powerful performances of his career and of the year. Filling most of the screen-time and almost all of the action scenes, ‘Drive’ is nearly a flawlessly slick character study of Gosling’s neo-noir, nameless, pastless and seemingly emotionless getaway and stunt-car driver, however the film ultimately triumphs in being a savage rebuttal to the thriller and suspense genre. This classic genre could be loosely described as films which promote intense excitement, suspense, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty and anxiety. ‘Drive’ embodies the most classic elements of this genre by focusing on: crime, high speed car-chases, hyper-violence and plot-twists. Yet unlike other famous suspense thriller movies such as ‘Speed’, ‘True Lies’ or the ‘Die Hard’ movies, which leave the audience with a sense of excitement, heroism and triumphant good, ‘Drive’ stands as a damning indictment of such films by exposing their vapid nature through quiet, unsentimental truth. And the cinematic truth in ‘Drive’ is utterly stunning. The hero is criminal and emotionally damaged, people die gruesome deaths, criminals evade justice, the world of the thriller is seedy, nihilistic and deadening. A ‘high-speed, action, thriller’ like you’ve seen many times, Drive is not. A visceral, stylish, and calculated masterpiece is what ‘Drive’ is. 10/10, A+, ****


3. ‘Melancholia’ (Lars Von Trier)

If it can be said that the philosophic tone of ‘The Tree of Life’ is distinctly spiritual, supernatural and ethereal then ‘Melancholia’ by contrast is decidedly atheistic, naturalistic and grounded. This could be because, unlike ‘The Tree of Life’ which seeks to capture life in its sweeping entirety, Trier’s ‘Melancholia’ is focused on decline, depression and finally the death of the world. This isn’t to say that ‘Melancholia’ is any less beautiful or true by comparison, it has a terrible beauty which may very well be more truthful than Malick’s spirituality, only its scope is narrower. The film runs like the last act of Hamlet, not only in its Danish location, disturbing melancholic mood, but also in its creeping finality and immense sense of impending end. Though the first half of the film begins in relative calm with the ill-fated wedding of Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst in her best ever performance, the seeds of creeping unease are sown early on by the poisonous personal interactions of the characters, like an ‘unweeded garden that grows to seed.’ The film builds with a kind of increasing volcanic intensity in the second half aided by the actual growing rumbling sounds of the on-coming planet ‘Melancholia’. The final 20mins of the film is one of the most intense and overwhelming finales I have ever seen, I literally couldn’t stop gripping my seat. ‘Melancholia’ will leave you speechless as you sit in the black silence, and its disturbing beauty will haunt you, as its message plays on your mind. 10/10, A+, ****


4. ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (Lynne Ramsay)

Though “Melancholia’ is disturbing in true Von Trier fashion, our resistance is somewhat pacified by the scenes of eye-watering beauty. We Need To Talk About Kevin is also deeply disturbing, verging on horrifying, but unlike Von Trier, Ramsay offers no beautiful refuge for the audience, leaving us to confront full-on the ugly nature of guilt, trauma and psychosis in dark silence. It is in the film’s silence that its true cinematic power resides: in the silent and subtle performance of suffering by the incomparable and fierce Tilda Swinton; in the silence left when you remove sentimentality and sensationalism from scenes of horror; the emotional silence created when you play inappropriately happy music jingles over unsettling images of violence and the grotesque; and ultimately the final silence in the empty meaningless left the face of the horrific crime committed. Perhaps what is most disturbing is the mother/son relationship brilliantly articulated by Lynne Ramsay, which not only poses the obvious question of what is a mother to do when she does not love her son, but rather questions around the nature/nurture debate: is it a lack of motherly love that creates a psychopathic killer or is it the fact that the boy is a psychopathic killer that makes motherly love impossible. Although the film is occasionally unbelievable and flat in tone, the film leaves one with a powerful sense of the senselessness and inexplicable nature of murder by withholding beauty, sensation and answers to our questions leaving us in silence, a very powerful cinematic tool. 9/10, A, ***1/2


5. Life In A Day (Kevin MacDonald and the worldwide public)

The best documentary I have ever seen is the ‘Up Series’ which has followed the lives of 14 British children since 1964 when they were 7 years old, filming them at seven-year intervals throughout their entire lives, seeking to capture the central mysteries of human existence. (56 Up is expected to have its broadcast premiere in May 2012) Roger Ebert called this film series ‘an inspired even noble, use of the film medium’. The same could be said for the intention of ‘Life In A Day’ a crowdsourced documentary film consisting of an arranged series of video clips selected from 80,000 clips, seeking to represent a true story of a single day, July 24 2010, from around the world. The film opens like the dawning of a regular day, people wake up, go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, make breakfast. The simplicity and universality of the tasks of getting up, having lunch, going to bed really bring home the fundamental nature of life as a series of small, simple, tasks and events. The film is framed around three questions: ‘What do you love?’ ‘What is in your pocket?’ and ‘What do you Fear?’ Though the film is peppered with extraordinary scenes of violence, adventure, love, death, sadness, the vast bulk of the film is made up of the simple moments of life. In the final scene, which on first viewing seems a bit of a let down, actually on further contemplation ties the whole film together, it depicts a girl talking to the camera about how she had waited all day for something exciting to happen to film for her contribution and concluded that for her although ‘nothing really happened’ ‘tonight something really great happened’. Ah ha life is in the living, not in the grand moments but in the everyday ordinary ones!!  9/10, A, ***1/2


(This film is free to watch on Youtube, in full)

6. Midnight In Paris (Woody Allen)

8/10, A-, ***1/2


7. The Help (Tate Taylor)

8/10, A-, ***1/2


8. Moneyball (Bennett Miller)

8/10, A-, ***1/2


9. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)

8/10, A-, ***1/2


10. The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd)

8/10, A-, ***1/2


Honourable Mentions:

11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,

12. Rango

13. Super 8

14. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

15. The Ides of March


‘Restless’ 2011


‘Restless’ 2011,

Director: Gus Van Sant, Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper and Ryo Kase

The Ultimate Hipster Romance:

More aesthetic than believable, more sweet than beautiful, more heart-warming than profound, Restless is a simple and matter-of fact romance dealing with subject matter that is anything but. Mia Wasikowska is fast on her way to becoming an acting A-lister and Henry Hopper is devastatingly gorgeous as the melancholic Enoch. Both share brooding chemistry. Despite some glaringly self conscious and contrived moments in the first half, the overwhelming sincerity of the last act succeeds in making Restless a moving ode to young love and death. The most poignant quote comes from the imaginary Japanese Kamikaze pilot Hiroshi, in his suicide letter, ‘dying is easy, love is hard’. 7/10, B, ***

2009 Movie Reviews


(Last updated: June 11, 2014)


1 The Hurt Locker **** A+ 10/10
2 The White Ribbon **** A+ 10/10
3 Avatar **** A+ 10/10
4 I Am Love **** A+ 10/10
5 Inglorious Basterds **** A+ 10/10
6 Up **** A+ 10/10
7 A Serious Man ***1/2 A 9/10
8 I Killed My Mother ***1/2 A 9/10
9 A Single Man ***1/2 A 9/10
10 Ponyo ***1/2 A 9/10
11 Bright Star ***1/2 A 9/10
12 Up In The Air ***1/2 A 9/10
13 The Cove ***1/2 A 9/10
14 Fantastic Mr. Fox ***1/2 A 9/10
15 District 9 ***1/2 A 9/10
16 The Secret In Their Eyes ***1/2 A 9/10
17 Precious ***1/2 A 9/10
18 Prayers For Bobby ***1/2 A 9/10
19 Samson And Delilah ***1/2 A 9/10
20 The Road ***1/2 A- 8/10
21 In The Loop ***1/2 A- 8/10
22 Home ***1/2 A- 8/10
23 An Education ***1/2 A- 8/10
24 500 Days Of Summer ***1/2 A- 8/10
25 Grey Gardens ***1/2 A- 8/10
26 I Love You Phillip Morris ***1/2 A- 8/10
27 Coraline ***1/2 A- 8/10
28 Mary And Max ***1/2 A- 8/10
29 Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince ***1/2 A- 8/10
30 Valentino: The Last Emperor ***1/2 A- 8/10
31 This Is It *** B+ 7/10
32 Chloe *** B+ 7/10
33 Cheri *** B+ 7/10
34 Princess And The Frog *** B+ 7/10
35 Watchmen *** B+ 7/10
36 Where The Wild Things Are *** B+ 7/10
37 Star Trek *** B+ 7/10
38 Julie And Julia *** B+ 7/10
39 Public Enemies *** B+ 7/10
40 Invictus *** B+ 7/10
41 Channel Coco & Igor Stravinsky *** B+ 7/10
42 State Of Play *** B+ 7/10
43 Young Victoria *** B+ 7/10
44 The Blind Side *** B+ 7/10
45 Coco Avant Channel *** B+ 7/10
46 September Issue *** B+ 7/10
47 2012 *** B+ 7/10
48 Taking Woodstock *** B 6/10
49 Easy Virtue *** B 6/10
50 Five Minutes Of Heaven *** B 6/10
51 The Father Of My Children *** B 6/10
52 He’s Just Not That Into You *** B 6/10
53 Sherlock Holmes *** B 6/10
54 Pirate Radio *** B 6/10
55 Taken *** B 6/10
56 Angles And Demons *** B 6/10
57 Antichrist **1/2 B- 5/10
58 New York, I Love You **1/2 B- 5/10
59 It’s Complicated **1/2 B- 5/10
60 Bride Wars **1/2 B- 5/10
61 Underworld 3: Rise Of The Lycans **1/2 B- 5/10
62 Knowing **1/2 B- 5/10
63 Day Breakers ** C+ 4/10
64 The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus ** C+ 4/10
65 The Lovely Bones ** C+ 4/10
66 Bruno ** C 3/10
67 Ugly Truth ** C 3/10
68 Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen *1/2 D 1/10
69 Land Of The Lost *1/2 D 1/10
70 The Fourth Kind * F 0/10







Class Stars Grade Out/10
Great Movie **** A+ 10/10
Great Movie – Very Good
Very Good ***1/2 A 9/10
Very Good – Recommended A- 8/10
Recommended *** B+ 7/10
OK –   Below Average B 6/10
Below Average **1/2 B- 5/10
Below Average – Bad C+ 4/10
Bad ** C 3/10
Bad – Very Bad C- 2/10
Very Bad *1/2 D 1/10
Appalling * F 0/10

2010 Movie Reviews


(Last updated: December 4, 2013)


1 The Social Network **** A+ 10/10
2 The King’s Speech **** A+ 10/10
3 Inception **** A+ 10/10
4 I Am Love **** A+ 10/10
5 Toy Story 3 **** A+ 10/10
6 Another Year **** A+ 10/10
7 Black Swan **** A+ 10/10
8 Winter’s Bone ***1/2 A 9/10
9 The Kids Are All Right ***1/2 A 9/10
10 In A Better World ***1/2 A 9/10
11 Animal Kingdom ***1/2 A 9/10
12 Blue Valentine ***1/2 A 9/10
13 True Grit ***1/2 A 9/10
14 Of Gods And Men ***1/2 A 9/10
15 Inside Job ***1/2 A- 8/10
16 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ***1/2 A- 8/10
17 127 Hours ***1/2 A- 8/10
18 The Fighter ***1/2 A- 8/10
19 Heartbeats ***1/2 A- 8/10
20 The Ghost Writer ***1/2 A- 8/10
21 Arrietty ***1/2 A- 8/10
22 Beginners ***1/2 A- 8/10
23 Rabbit Hole ***1/2 A- 8/10
24 Shutter Island ***1/2 A- 8/10
25 Somewhere *** B+ 7/10
26 All Good Things *** B+ 7/10
27 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 *** B+ 7/10
28 Never Let Me Go *** B+ 7/10
29 Howl *** B+ 7/10
30 Tron: Legacy *** B+ 7/10
31 Four Lions *** B+ 7/10
32 Agora *** B+ 7/10
33 Tomorrow When The War Began *** B+ 7/10
34 The Town *** B+ 7/10
35 Wild Target *** B+ 7/10
36 Barney’s Version *** B+ 7/10
37 Potiche *** B 6/10
38 Green Zone *** B 6/10
39 Morning Glory *** B 6/10
40 Creation *** B 6/10
41 Robin Hood *** B 6/10
42 Brighton Rock *** B 6/10
43 The Killer Inside Me **1/2 B- 5/10
44 Hereafter **1/2 B- 5/10
45 Love And Other Drugs **1/2 B- 5/10
46 Red Hill **1/2 B- 5/10
47 Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps **1/2 C+ 4/10
48 Alice In Wonderland **1/2 C+ 4/10
49 Iron Man 2 **1/2 C+ 4/10
50 Eat Pray Love ** C 3/10
51 Skyline * F 0/10
Class Stars Grade Out/10
Great Movie **** A+ 10/10
Very Good ***1/2 A 9/10
Very Good – Recommended A- 8/10
Recommended *** B+ 7/10
OK – Below Average B 6/10
Below Average **1/2 B- 5/10
Below Average –   Bad C+ 4/10
Bad ** C 3/10
Bad – Very Bad C- 2/10
Very Bad *1/2 D 1/10
Appalling * F 0/10