Over the past year, I’ve seen a number of films. Some good, some bad, but most middling. I’ve seen big studio films and independent releases; comedies, dramas, action films, sci-fi and family ones; cartoon, live action and mixed. Below are my thoughts and ratings on a few. Ratings are out of 10. the films appear in no particular order.
- “Bridesmaids” was a gross-out comedy that could give the Farrelly Brothers a run for their money. The most outrageous bit? A food poisoning scene in a Bridal Shop of all places. The audience was literally shrieking with laughter during this. I give it a 8.
- “Crazy Stupid Love” starred Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Ryan Gosling. Carell’s character is an accountant who has given up on trying. His fed-up wife (Julianne Moore) has embarked on an affair with a colleague and wants a divorce. Ryan Gosling’s character is a player who overhears the accountant’s moaning for several nights in a row and decides to give him a makeover if only to stop his whining. Add to that a teenage babysitter who gets the hots for Carell’s character, the couple’s young son who has the hots for the babysitter and a love interest for Gosling with a secret and you have a pretty crazy, but very entertaining, film. It earns a 7.
- “Rango” was an animated film with Johnny Depp voicing the lead character, a chameleon who wants to be a star and whose “storytelling” gets him the job of Sherriff in a drought-stricken town, only to find himself in over his head. Isla Fisher voices the love interest, Bill Nighy is Rattlesnake Jake and Abigail Breslin plays a precocious child in the town. It wasn’t bad, and I rate it 6.
- “No Strings Attached” starred Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman as friends who decide to make their relationship physical, but not emotional. The best part of the film was Kevin Kline as the Kutcher character’s father, a pot-smoking former sitcom star who hooks up with his son’s girlfreind. Although marketed as a rom-com, it was neither particularly funny nor romantic. “Friends with Benefits”, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, had the same basic premise but was funnier, sexier and more romantic. The former film gets 5, and the latter gets 7.
- “Thor” was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is famous for directing cinema versions of Shakespeare’s plays and who, as a child growing up in Northern Ireland, enjoyed the Thor comic. It had its moments, but I found it rather “meh”. 5.
- “Horrible Bosses” had three workers, each with a boss from hell. Jason Bateman’s boss (played by Kevin Spacey) was a manipulative psychopath, Charlie Day‘s boss (Jennifer Aniston) is sexually harassing him, and Jason Sudeikis’s boss has died, leaving the company in the hands of his druggie tool of a son (Colin Farrel). The three then try to hatch plots to murder their bosses.
The film simply didn’t work for me, and the main reason is Day’s character, who is an annoying, whiny twerp. At several points, I wanted to reach into the screen, grab him, give him a few smacks around the head and yell “grow up and stop bitching!” I can buy Jennifer Aniston as a sexual harasser, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to get it on with Day’s snivelling moaner. It only gets 5.
- “In Time” is set in a world where people live until they are 25, and then a countdown timer of 1 year starts on their bodies. That is all the time they have left to live, unless they can buy more time. Time is also the currency in this reality. It’s literally money. Justin Timberlake stars as a lower class individual who gets given the time to escape where he lives. Amanda Seyfried is the daughter of a very wealthy upper class businessman who gets entangled with him.
The film is used to make a point about exploitation of the poor by the rich. It doesn’t so much drive the point home as beat the viewer over the head with it. However, if you are able to leave this aside (and I was) it’s actually quite good and gets 7.
- “A Better Life” is about an illegal Mexican immigrant raising his teenaged son in Los Angeles and working as a gardener. His wife left them years ago, and his sister has married a local and is legal. The title is because the father wants the son to have a better life than he himself has had.
Near the film’s end, he is picked up as an illegal and taken to a deportation centre. His lawyer tells him that he has no real chance of appealing as “people who have been here longer, people with families, even people who pay taxes” have been deported. He tells his son to stay with his sister and accepts deportation. In the final scene, he is with a group of illegals trying to sneak back into the US. The last line of the film (and the most crucial) is “Let’s go home”. He had lived in the US for so long that it, and not Mexico, is home to him. I give it 8.
- “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was surprisingly good. A researcher is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts his father. The cure is tested on chimpanzees. It seems to work, but something goes wrong and the chimpanzees in the trial are euthanased. Afterwards, the researcher is given a baby chimpanzee that one of the chimps in the trial gave birth to. The chimpanzee has green eyes and remarkable intelligence. The film’s doomsday scenario comes across as plausible. Also good is Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter) as a sadistic caretaker at a primate centre. It scores 7.
- “X-Men: First Class” is about the origins of the X-Men. It plays fast and loose with history but otherwise sets a fairly convincing backstory. 6.
- “The Beaver” was overshadowed by Mel Gibson‘s domestic issues, which is a pity as it’s actually quite good. Gibson plays a man with long term chronic depression who gets kicked out of the house by his wife (Jodie Foster, who also directed the film). After (unsuccessfully and amusingly) attempting suicide, he finds a beaver hand puppet in a rubbish bin and starts to interact with others through it. Initially successful, the method ultimately turns out to be a false dawn. The ending isn’t completely happy, but that makes the film. It gets 7.
- “Biutiful” is a subtitled film from Spain starring Javier Bardem as a man dying from cancer, with two children and an ex-wife who had to be sectioned for mental illness and who isn’t totally recovered. While dealing with his impending death, he also tries to make sure his children and ex-wife will be taken care of after he is gone. Like it’s name, it’s rather beautiful and I give it 7.
- In “50/50”, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a man diagnosed with cancer. According to the publicity, the film is based on the screenwriter’s own diagnosis of cancer. The 50/50 referred to his odds of surviving, which were only half.
The film didn’t work for me. I think the screenwriter was too close to the story and the characters were caricatures in the bad sense. It gets only 5.
- Will Ferrell‘s character in “Everything Must Go” is a chronic alcoholic and brilliant salesman. At the film’s start, he has been fired after an incident which involved him falling off the wagon after a long period of sobriety. When he gets home, he finds his wife has left, changed the locks and put all his stuff on the front lawn. He soon attracts the attention of the police who want to know why he is living outdoors with all his stuff. His Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor advises him to hold a yard sale to keep them off his back.
Although Ferrell is a comedy actor, this film isn’t a comedy. Ferrell is able to do pathos quite well, and I give it a 7.
- The last film I saw in 2011 was also the biggest letdown. “Another Earth” starts with a planet identical to Earth being seen in the Solar System. As time passes, the planet gets closer and closer to Earth. A young girl is driving home from a party drunk, and looking at the other planet. She strikes a vehicle containing a Professor of Music, his pregnant wife and their young son. Wife and son die, and she is sentenced to four years is jail for vehicular manslaughter. After her release, she tracks down the Professor in an attempt to make amends. She pretends to be from a cleaning service offering a free trial period.
The film was going along fine, until there is a sex scene between the two. I groaned inwardly. Another Earth gets a 4.
2011 was a leaner year for films than 2010. Looking at my list, I can understand why. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be better.