30 December 2011

The Mad Prophet's Top 25 Films Of 2011- #25-11

OK then, to hell with the rubbish I was chatting about yesterday. While this post will run down my 25 favourite films of the year, up until the #11 spot, don't think of these as runners up for the top 10 (which will be posted tomorrow), if you can help it. 2011 held plenty of great films, and I wouldn't stretch to 25 favourites if I didn't think so.

As I've explained in the past, this is based on movies released in the UK in 2011- I don't count The King's Speech as a 2009 film, and The Artist (unfortunately) won't be released until 2012. More than that, this isn't an outright meritocratic Best Of list- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one of the year's best films, but I didn't enjoy it enough to place it in my favourites of the year.

So, with the usual caveats that this list is purely based on my own opinions, which should really go without saying anyway, let's start counting down the top 25 movies that I saw in 2011.

29 December 2011

The Mad Prophet's Bottom 10 Films of 2011

On balance, 2011 has been a good year for movies, with the average film generally being much better than in previous years. It's not to say that we've had many obviously deserving standouts for the next Oscars ceremony in February, because this is clearly the most open awards season in years. But certainly, there are many very good films, but I'll be posting those in the next few days. Today's order of business is the year's really sucky movies.

I've written up my bottom 10 list for Movie Reviews, and you can find that here, but I'll also give some more analysis and links to my original reviews, after the jump. So, with the Mayans having predicted the coming of the apocalypse within the next 12 months, I've picked out another ten films that might just make you think "You know what? If we survived that, we can survive anything."

28 December 2011

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO- Review

Sometimes, there's a single aspect of a movie that you can imagine driving fans absolutely crazy. Although the particular aspect I want to pick out today has yet to get any significant backlash, at least as far as I've seen, it's an important one. And so, along with "surviving a nuclear explosion by climbing in a fridge", "the ebonics-speaking twin robots" and "a werewolf falling in love with a baby", we can reasonably add "Lisbeth Salander buying Happy Meals."

This is one small problem with David Fincher's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, but it is part of a larger problem with this second version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The story is, as you might suspect, the same as in the Swedish-language version, but it's now spoken in English. It's still set in Sweden, however, as a scrupulous financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, has his reputation ruined by a very public libel lawsuit. The publicity around this gets Blomkvist involved in the affairs of Henrik Vanger, and his powerful industrialist family, and also brings him onto the same path as a troubled, but brilliant hacker, named Lisbeth Salander.

27 December 2011

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- GHOST PROTOCOL- Review

Ethan Hunt, as played by Tom Cruise, is effectively the closest thing that Americans have to a James Bond figure. 15 years on from his first run at the role, Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol takes more of a lead from the superior sequel, 2006's Mission: Impossible 3, by making the action even more ensemble-centric than before. With JJ Abrams working as a producer, and the handing of the directorial reins to animation legend Brad Bird, the series is no longer a vehicle for Cruise, but the Bond series equivalent it always had the potential to be.

We reunite with Ethan Hunt as he languishes in a Russian prison, charged with an unsanctioned hit on a group of Serbian nationals. In short order, the IMF breaks him out and assigns him a new mission, and a new team, comprising the vengeful Agent Carter and tech geek Benji Dunn. During their mission, Ethan's team then becomes the scapegoat for a terrorist attack against the Kremlin, and are concordantly disavowed by the US government. Together with Brandt, a prickly field analyst, they are all that remains of the IMF, and their mission is to clear their names and prevent a global nuclear war.

26 December 2011

The Zero Room #12- The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe

After the head-sploding, universe-mashing consequences of Series 6, this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe sees Steven Moffat hit more of the key, with a standalone story in which the timey-wimey unravelling of major plot obstacles is, for once, a bit more manageable. On the other hand, the story feels somewhat smaller, as well as simpler.

Reviews will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, toddle over to the iPlayer, or watch BBC Three at some point in the next century's worth of repeats.

23 December 2011

A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS- Review

If we look at the Doctor Who Christmas specials (review of The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe coming on Monday), we can see that even in modern Christmas specials, we can throw out the usual standards and measure a film purely by how festive it was, and how much we enjoyed it. The Harold & Kumar films have consistently been the place where logic and coherence goes out of the window in favour of uproarious hijinks, so you can suppose that A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas goes the same way.

While the second movie picked up minutes after the first, this third instalment actually reunites our less than dynamic duo years after the hard-working Harold has upped sticks, married Maria and generally grown up. Meanwhile, Kumar is still getting high on his couch, while mourning his failed relationship and his expulsion from medical school. Typically, their chance reunion on Christmas Eve sees Kumar accidentally burning down a prized Christmas tree belonging to Harold's father-in-law. The pair must go on one more chaotic adventure to find a replacement and save Harold's family Christmas.

18 December 2011

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS- Review

One of my bugbears with Guy Ritchie's enjoyably daft rendition of Sherlock Holmes, a couple of years back, was that it constantly seeded the arrival of Professor Moriarty in the then-unconfirmed sequel, with far less subtlety than the hat-tip to the Joker at the end of Batman Begins, and much more of Blofeld's incognito appearances in the early Bond movies. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows actually vindicates its predecessor in that regard, by being completely worth all of that foreshadowing.

At the beginning of this sequel, Sherlock Holmes is effectively working solo, as his het life-partner Dr. John Watson is betrothed to the lovely Mary, and his on-off paramour Irene Adler continues her affiliation with a dastardly criminal mastermind. Of course, the criminal in question is Professor James Moriarty, an academic who is connected to a number of peculiar industrial accidents. When he and Holmes lock horns, Watson is snatched away from his irked bride and whisked off on an adventure, as the two quarreling detectives try to prevent the eruption of a world war.

16 December 2011

NEW YEAR'S EVE- Review

Clocking in at seven minutes shorter than last year's abominable ensemble romcom Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve also proved to be considerably less damaging to my brain, senses and face than its thematic predecessor. Director Garry Marshall rounds up every star he knows for another round of une film de Happy Madison, where everybody's having fun, and more importantly, everybody's getting paid. Except for the audience, of course.

Moving away from the previous film's compulsive February 14th ramblings, this one takes place, as you might expect, on December 31st. In New York City, all eyes are on the ball in Times Square, awaiting a magical midnight moment that may never come, if a mechanical fault cannot be corrected before the clock strikes twelve. But inside and around this story, famous faces all over the city are rushing around and trying to make sure that they end 2011 on a high, including record company secretary Ingrid, who hires bicycle courier Paul to help her complete her New Year's resolutions from the year gone by, before time runs out.

12 December 2011

PUSS IN BOOTS- Review

Would I be incorrect to credit the buzz of anticipation around Puss In Boots to the fact that it appears to be a film arriving seven years too late? 2004's Shrek 2, a film which looks better in retrospect for not having sunk as low as the sequels that followed, reinvented the character as a feline contract killer in the vein of Zorro, accordingly voiced by Antonio Banderas, and Puss was one of the comic highlights of the film. A spin-off film released shortly after would have been both timely and welcome, but as it turns out, it's predated by Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After.

Furthermore, it's not only a spin-off, but a prequel, that most precarious of cinematic endeavours. In the case of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the origin story superfluously expanded upon the salient points made in X-Men 2. As no such backstory can be picked up from the Shrek films, Puss In Boots finds our hero as a wanted cat, travelling the land, and trying to clear his name in connection with a terrible crime against his home village. The egg who framed him, Humpty Dumpty, comes to him with a sultry feline associate, Kitty Softpaws, and a daring heist plan to raid the legendary giant's castle, via beanstalk, naturally.

9 December 2011

When Worlds Collide! ANOTHER EARTH and MELANCHOLIA

Today sees the release of a thoughtful little sci-fi drama called Another Earth, a film that came out of this year's Sundance with a justifiable buzz about it. It was duly snapped up by Fox Searchlight, and its release gives me the opportunity to recap a film I missed out on when it was originally released, but one which has generated quite enough of a response even before my delayed review.

For Melancholia is also a drama that hangs on a sci-fi twist, with a certain amount of indie cred and festival buzz. However, it happens to have been directed by Lars von Trier, which may lead you to expect that the film isn't as interesting as the media furore that surrounded it. And you'd probably be half right. It's not front-loading my reviews, to say that I much preferred Another Earth, but it remains that both are dramas with an existential slant, which each happen to involve the appearance of a fucking great planet in the sky.

7 December 2011

THE THING- Review

One of the first reviews I remember doing for this blog, a couple of years ago, was Tony Scott's remake, The Taking of Pelham 123. Even aside from how it completely misses the point of the original film, and John Travolta's especially revolting performance, it's a pretty competently made film, which left some readers puzzled as to why I hated it so much. And their confusion is probably down to the fact that I don't know many other people who count the classic 1974 version amongst their favourite films.

So colour me unsympathetic, now that we're faced with The Thing, ostensibly a 21st century remake of John Carpenter's The Thing, which was itself a remake of 1951's The Thing From Another World. As becomes apparent throughout the 2011 version, however, it's actually in continuity with Carpenter's film, which prominently features a Antarctic base in the aftermath of an attack by the shape-shifting bastard of the title. So, the film opens with the discovery of a spacecraft, frozen underground, and palaeontology graduate Kate Lloyd is shipped out to Antarctica with a bunch of Norwegians, to investigate the discovery.

5 December 2011

HUGO- Review

The thing about Hugo is that it's one of those films that pivots on a great twist, midway through the film, which makes it difficult to review without giving away spoilers. I shan't give it away myself, but if you haven't yet seen Martin Scorsese's first film for children, a heartfelt ode to silent cinema that also happens to have the best use of Real-D 3D ever... then I'd say give it a chance without reading the rest of this review first. Go see it, and then come back. I'll wait.

So, from the director of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and The Departed, comes this U-certificate family movie, based on a popular children's novel by Brian Selznick. Hugo Cabret is an intelligent and technically-minded boy, who is orphaned after his father dies in a tragic museum-related accident. His drunken uncle, Claude, decides to skive off his job, winding the clocks in a Paris railway station, and put Hugo to work in his place. Hugo moves into the station, living in a hidden apartment and scavenging parts to try and repair his father's legacy- an old-timey automaton that they were restoring together.

2 December 2011

BlogalongaBond- FOR YOUR EYES ONLY Review

Wrap up warm, Grandpa Bond...
You can say what you like about Moonraker... and that, incidentally, is why I chose to say that it was insane, egregious, intergalactic bullshit. But while you can say what you like about Moonraker, at least it was committed in its laser-fighting, space-faring, pigeon-surprising shite. If the series had crashed and burned on its sequel's return from the outer space lunacy, that would have been far more interesting than the gentle thud made by For Your Eyes Only.

The problem, as I see it, is entirely to do with the fact that it's another reboot. All of the elements that remind you of a James Bond film are here, and it's a palate cleanser, after the previous instalment. However, an attempt to recast Bond didn't pan out, and so Roger Moore ambles on through another plot where some bastard or other twocks something from the Royal Navy, in this case, their submarine communication system, ATAC. Upon investigating the theft, Bond encounters Melina Havelock, blazing a trail of vengeance across Europe, after her parents were murdered in a fly-by shooting.