Friday 20 January 2012

My Top 5 Films of 2011

Chris Hemsworth as Thor
With 2012 well under way, I felt it a good time to look back over the last 12 months and highlight which films really stood out for me and which I enjoyed the most.

5)  Thor (Director: Kenneth Branagh. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston)

Thor continued Marvel's run of success at the box office with a fantastic origin story for their Norse-god hero. Director Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job of recreating Asgard and making the whole context fit into the existing Iron Man/Nick Fury/SHIELD universe.

Hemsworth was great as the arrogant and heavy-handed Thor and suitably beefed-up for the role. Portman injected star-quality into the action but for me the stand-out was Tom Hiddleston as manipulative and slimy villain Loki. Hiddleston stole every scene he was in and will reappear in April when the Avengers assemble for their first big screen feature.

4) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Director: Brad Bird. Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg)

Brad Bird (The Incredible's, Ratatouille) successfully leapt from the family friendly world of Pixar and brought the success he'd found there to the M:I franchise.

Witty dialogue, inventive set-pieces and that stand-out Dubai skyscraper sequence were a welcome breath of fresh air to  the films, with Tom Cruise taking centre stage amongst it all. Showing us all why he's the biggest movie-star on the planet, Cruise left no doubt in our minds that this was his film.

Brilliant, fun and most importantly, cool. Mission accomplished.

Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige in Submarine

3) Submarine (Director: Richard Ayoade. Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige)

Despite having only directed music videos previously (for bands such as the Last Shadow Puppets, Vampire Weekend and Kasabian), Richard Ayodae took his big screen directorial debut in his stride by managing the seemingly impossible; making teenage life in 1980's Wales an absolute hoot.

Craig Roberts was brilliant as quirky and awkward Oliver Tate who falls for Yasmin Paige's Jordana. Both are very good and for me Submarine stood out amongst a whole host of huge summer blockbusters that failed to impress.

2) Senna (Director: Asif Kapadia. Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost)

A documentary focusing on the life of Brazilian Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, this film was a brilliantly moving piece that showcased the talent, skill and determination of a mortally flawed and paradoxical human-being. Whilst overly biased in favour of it's subject, Kapadia did a excellent job of compiling together a fitting from the sport's extensive file footage.

Where the film worked best was appealing to a mass audience; you didn't have to be a huge fan of Formula One or any Motorsport for that matter to find the story of Ayrton Senna moving; it really was a case of art imitating life as Senna's journey plays out like a true Hollywood picture.

Super 8

1)  Super 8 (Director: J.J Abrams. Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths)

Set in 1979 suburban America, Super 8 was a throwback to the cinema of yesteryear with director J.J Abrams paying homage to producer Steven Spielberg and his back catalogue of films that have heart and soul to go with their balls.

Abrams assembled a stellar ensemble cast of youths (above) to portray a group of friends who work with their Super 8 camera to make zombie movies. Off-screen the kids must have an excellent rapport as it really shows on screen as they fit together like a true group of friends. Elle Fanning is especially good as Alice and Kyle Chandler is amazing as Joel Courtney's grieving father. It's a brilliant tribute to E.T. and Close Encounters, it stood-out as the film of the year.

Honorary mentions: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Contagion, Crazy Stupid Love and Puss in Boots.

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