Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Movies of March: Part 2

Welcome back!  Desperate to know what the best films I watched in March were?  Probably not but thanks for stopping by anyway!  In case you missed the bottom fourteen, here's the list.

And now it's time for the top fourteen of the month of March:
14. The Help (Tate Taylor, 2011)

It’s a white woman’s burden as Emma Stone helps the poor black maids of 1960’s Mississippi find a voice by writing their stories of oppression and discrimination and turning them into a book.  Typically it takes a white character to set the story off and to help the black folk to speak up for themselves but other than that, it’s an engaging enough story that is gifted with great performances from an exceptional mostly female cast.

13. Shifty (Eran Creevy, 2009)

Low budget British film about a crack dealer whose world gets turned upside down when an old friend returns home.  Riz Ahmed and Daniel Mays give solid performances alongside a stand out turn from the villainous Jason Flemyng.  It’s all wrapped up a little predictably and conveniently but the characters are realistically written and the story pace never drags making it a satisfying, if not electrifying package.

12. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2011)

Herzog’s awe at the discovery of some of the earliest examples of cave drawings is palpable and contagious.  The footage of the drawings, and the drawings themselves, are incredible and this documentary introduces the audience to some of the people that discovered them as well as a range of experts who all have theories and ideas about what the drawings can tell us about the early human race.  Fascinating.

11. X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn, 2011)

Matthew Vaughn’s very entertaining prequel/reboot to the X-Men trilogy actually manages to beat Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner’s takes on the superhero mutant team.  With Fassbender and McAvoy as the main draws playing young Magneto and Professor X, this was a surefire winner from the start.  But the younger ensemble that includes Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult and the cool 60s setting also help to make this a comic book movie that sticks in the memory longer than a day.

10. The Inbetweeners (Ben Palmer, 2011)

The antics of British televisions cheeky quartet transfer surprisingly well to the big screen with the lads going to Malia for a holiday with the potential for sun, sea, drinks, and sex.  It has moments of laugh out loud hilarity and a decent story that lacks surprises but will keep fans of the show happy.  Everyone else might want to stay clear as I can’t see this gaining them more fans.

9. Swingers (Doug Liman, 1997)

Favreau and Vaughn shine as a sweet double act, the former dealing with a break up and the latter determined to consistently score with plenty of women.  Vaughn’s charisma is clear but Favreau carries the heart of the movie.  The central relationship between the boys is sweet and convincing and though the women characters are short-changed, this is a story about men being men filled with great dialogue and amusing movie references.

8. The Ides of March (George Clooney, 2011)

Gosling gives a great performance as an idealist on the political campaign trail who slowly realizes the kind of person he must become to survive and thrive in the dog eat dog world of politics.  Clooney directs himself and creates a cautionary tale of what seems to be the cruel and sad harsh reality of a life in modern politics.

7. The Interrupters (Steve James, 2011)

Inspiring documentary that follows a brave group of people that spend their time ‘interrupting’ gang violence in dangerous neighbourhoods.  Sometimes the subject of the documentary makes it a winner, never mind the style, the storytelling, the skills of the director.  This inspirational group of people deserves to have their story told and heard by the world and thankfully they make for an interesting group of characters and their stories and interactions make for emotional viewing.

6. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Jose Padilha, 2011)

Complex characters and action packed drama in this sequel to a film I barely remember.  The favelas are still just as dangerous, the cops still as corrupt and the system itself is challenged in this Brazilian blockbuster with added brains. A conflicted cop sees the corruption at the top and must decide between his traditional methods of law enforcement and a more modern approach to the violence and drug problems in the favela.

5. Warrior (Gavin O’Connor, 2011)

Macho MMA melodrama with a trio of great performances at its heart.  Despite the impressive physicality of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton (rapidly becoming two of my favourite actors), the film belongs to Nolte who can just deliver a look of longing that can set the hardiest of macho men’s eyes watering.  When the characters are this well drawn and the performances are this strong, it matters not that the final punch up is predictable from the very start.

4. Snowtown (Justin Kurzel, 2011)

Another true life serial killer film but shot with stunning artistry and filled with wholly believable performances from a cast of unknowns and non-professionals.  It may be bad taste making a film about these despicable slayings but when the film is this mesmerising and memorable, it’s hard not to forgive the filmmakers.

3. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)

A solid adaptation of a brilliant book.  The story is still as thrilling and the performances are all great with the casting spot on.  My only gripe is that the violence was not as shocking as it was in the book.  The need for a low rating squashed some of the intense threat and more violent moments of the book.  That said the handheld camera and production and costume design are not as bad as some reviewers would have you believe with District 12 being particularly well realised.  Lawrence is great with some moments actually beating the book for emotional resonance.

2. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)

Finally got to see what all the fuss is about.  The film is gifted with great music, great performances, spare dialogue and a gripping story.  There is beautiful use of lighting and colour and an extremely cool hero played by man of the moment Ryan Gosling.  The kind of film that will undoubtedly reward repeat viewings with its irresistible mix of sweet sensitivity and vicious violence.

1.       1. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

My top film of the month and quite possibly my favourite film of 2011.  Kevin is a psychopath.  Not sure why, let’s just say he just is.  His long-suffering  mother (heart-breakingly performed by Tilda Swinton) is ostracised from the community due to Kevin’s actions and the non-linear narrative switches back and forth between the present and the past as Swinton deals with her odd son.  Kevin is a brilliant movie monster.  Uncaring, obnoxious, arrogant and hideous.  He even looks straight into the camera at one point and seems to chastise the audience of the film in a scene that nearly made me choke with laughter and shock.  It’s got a bloody gut punch of an ending too.  I can’t recommend it enough.

So that's it.  I'm still debating whether it's time to make my 'best of 2011' list or to wait until I've seen other possible contenders such as Take Shelter and The Skin I Live In.   Decisions, decisions.  Either way I need to slow down on the film watching in April and concentrate on other things.  Nameley Breaking Bad series 2 and 3!

What do you think of this list?  Anything controversial? 


  1. Great list, Pete. You certainly have me beat with the amount of titles viewed. I really need to see "Kevin" but I'm waiting for it to come on Netflix. BTW it's not time for a Best Of The Year list until you've seen EVERYTHING! The rate I'm going, it'll be June or July until I get mine up. And I'm ok with that! Lol

    Nice work!

    1. Good stuff, it's not just me holding off on making the all important best of 2011 list then! I hope you like 'Kevin'. It's not a particularly pleasant watch but it's brilliant!

  2. "We need to talk about Kevin", "Drive" and "The Ides of March" are indeed wonderful. I did not like "The Hunger Games" and I was quite disappointed by "x Men" Vaughn has yet to direct the movie I will like, the one thing that I liked a lot was Fassbender's performance.

  3. WOW, you did see a ton of films this month, Pete!

    'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' sounds intriguing, is that more of a documentary??

    Glad you enjoyed 'First Class', that's one of my faves from last year. It's just so darn entertaining all around, but you're right, the major draw for me was the relationship between Xavier and Magneto, played brilliantly by McAvoy & Fassbender.

    1. Yeah Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a doc and it's really interesting. The images on the cave walls have stuck with me. It's a real eye-opener.

      I'm not a huge superhero fan but First Class was defintely one of the better ones. I actually feel like I could happily watch it again.

  4. Tons of great movies in that list. I watched Elite Squad 2 and really liked it although I'm not sure I prefer it over the first installment which was more hard-hitting.

    To this day, I'm still waiting for Netflix to send me The Help. It's been my #1 for months. Crazy!

  5. Pete, glad you got to check out Drive. That elevator scene is awesome. That Cave of Forgotten Dreams sounds interesting I am going to try and check that out. Spot on about that Drive soundtrack, its the first one I purchased in years.

    1. Yeah Drive lived up to expectations which is pretty difficult after all I'd heard! I was already loving the soundtrack before I saw the film so that helped!

      Yeah Cave of Forgotten Dreams isn't the best doc in the world but it's amazing to see the drawings!

  6. You definitely need to see "Take Shelter". I'm yet to see "The Skin I Live In" but I hear its pretty good too.

    1. Thanks for the advice, I'll hold off on the best of 2011 list until I see it!

    2. I would like to second the need to see Take Shelter

    3. I'm on it! Just waiting for Lovefilm to send it through!

  7. WOW this is even better. Your month was big hitter after big hitter. Apart from the obvious ones I loved Cave of forgotten dreams and Elite Squad 2.... Brilliant films.

    1. Yeah it feels like I've finally caught up on most of 2011's awesomness now! Thanks for the recommendation on Elite Squad 2... it was FRC's review that sold it to me!


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