Monday, February 6, 2012

Mallory's Best and Worst Films of 2011

These are my favourite films of 2011.

10. Blank City (2010) United States / Hesher (2010) United States
Celine Danheir did an amazing job depicting the downtown 1970s New York city art scene. Interviews with like minded DYI artists such as Amos Poe, Deborah Harry, Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch, Richard Kern and John Waters. This doc was extremely inspiring with it's sludgy style, raw archival footage and refreshing take on important New York city no wave history.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman did not fail in this genuine comedy drama about a young boy dealing with the loss of his mother and an unlikely new friend. Hesher is hilarious in all of the right vulgar and distasteful ways.

9. Marécages (2011) Canada
Set in rural Quebec, Marécages tells the story of a poor farm family struggling to keep their farm from bankruptcy. When an unlikely tragedy occurs, the main character Marie falls into a downward spiral that is both depressing and fascinating to watch. It is definitely in my opinion, the most overlooked film of 2011.

8. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) France
The genuine and talented director Werner Herzog brings together an incomprehensible documentary about the mysterious cave paintings that have been found in Southern France. These paintings have been preserved for over 20,000 years and are the earliest human paintings known to date. A beguiling and mysterious combination of philosophy, art and metaphor.

7. Bill Cunningham New York (2010) United States
A documentary showing a fascinating and charming New York-er obsessed with chronicling fashion; Bill Cunningham is a legend in the New York fashion community. The director Richard Press does a fantastic job in showing Bill's charm and ardent career as a fashion photographer.

6. Septien (2011) United States
Director Michael Tully (who also plays a bizarre and talented athlete in the film) gives an impressive mixture of comedy and originality in this Southern Gothic monument. Initially I was intrigued to see Septien because of Rachel Korine (wife of the talented director Harmony Korine) having a role in the film. I was extremely impressed with her performance as well as the rest of the cast.

5. Attenberg (2010) Greece
Greek director's such as Attenberg director Athena Rachel Tsangari and Dogtooth director Goirgos Lanthimos are really breaking into the art house cinema crowd these days. Dogtooth being one of my favourite films of 2010, I wasn't surprised to find Attenberg in my top five of 2011. Attenberg tells the story of Marina, a socially inexperienced young woman, who goes through life with a soundtrack consisting of no wave bands such as Suicide and an influence of Sir David Attenborough wildlife documentaries. Perfect.

4. Into the Abyss (2011) Germany/United States
Werner Herzog, being one of my favourite directors, comes through again on my list with the documentary Into the Abyss. This documentary tells the story of death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his killings. It asks the question of why human beings - both the criminals and the state - find the need to kill.

3. The Hagstone Demon (2011) United States
I had been waiting to see this film since I had heard it was being made in 2009.  The film's leading role being filled in by Mark Borchardt was the reason. A totally inspirational character, Borchardt is the star of the documentary film American Movie and the director of the short film Coven. Both Borchardt's acting and the director's originality blew me away. Everything from a hairless cat eating raw fish heads, to a mysterious homeless woman and her toilet troubles, to a beautifully done Satanic mass - this film has all of these things and much more.

2. Melancholia (2011) Denmark
Lars von Trier, one of the most controversial directors to date, brings forth another painful and nostalgic film with Melancholia. Though much less graphic than his previous work Antichrist, the themes portrayed in Melancholia are just as disturbing yet much more subtle. Trier himself being challenged with clinical depression really brings this through in the film. Kirsten Dunst having the lead role as Justine, an extremely depressed character, seems to become calmer as the rogue planet melancholia comes closer to colliding with earth.

1. The Skin I Live In (2011) Spain
The Skin I Live In happens to be the most recent film that I've seen and also my number one of 2011. It completely restored by faith that Antonio Banderas is a good actor. Banderas plays a skillful yet damaged plastic surgeon that perfects a type of synthetic skin that can withstand burns. He creates this skin by using a mysterious woman as his test subject. The director Pedro Almodóvar does a brilliant job in initially confusing the viewer and then slowly seeping bits of intriguing information to keep viewers locked in. This is a film that I'll be daydreaming about for quite a while.

Onto the next part of my blog post which are my least favourite films of 2011.

10. The Tree of Life (2011) United States
I'm sure I'll get put down for including this one on my list but honestly I don't give a fuck. I was extremely disappointed with this film, especially being a Terrence Malick fan. His other films such as Badlands and Days of Heaven were brilliant. This films is one of the most over rated films of 2011. With its existential bullshit and foreseeable metaphors, I felt like taking a big greasy shit on the floor.

9. The Trip (2010) UK
This movie is about a pathetic couple of men who go touring across the country to review Britain's finest restaurants. Maybe it's just not my thing, but the humor was absolutely terrible. This is another film that most people did end up liking. The best describing word for this movie is dull.

8.  Stake Land (2010) United States
Stake Land follows the story of a teenage boy who is suffering the effects of a world that has gone into shambles over a vampire epidemic. Him and a rebel vampire hunter embark on an adventure to escape into Canada which is the new Eden. I saw this film at this years Dark Bridges film festival and upon reading the summary didn't have very high hopes for it anyways. But it ended up being unbearable to sit through. Eye rolling lines such as this one - "I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Things a boy shouldn't see." As well as an embarrassing performance of Leadbelly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night? 

7. Iron Lady (2011) UK
Meryl Streep won best performance by an actress at the Golden Globe awards for her role as Margret Thatcher in Iron Lady. Although the flashbacks that tell Thatcher's story are intriguing, I thought that this was an exploitative role in order to win awards. Even though I'm not a fan of Thatcher's politics, the feminist in me is proud of her for making way for women in an extremely male dominant house of commons. I thought that Thatcher's dementia was portrayed quite insensitively.

6. Insidious (2010) United States
I honestly don't know why I went to see this film in the first place. I ended up being embarrassed for myself that I was actually sitting here alone in a theater full of people watching this silly film. It's pretty much as tacky and foreseeable as most current blockbuster horror movies can get.

5. In Time (2011) United States
Watch Logan's Run instead.

4. Horrible Bosses (2011) United States
Blockbuster comedy is complete shit, mostly. Horrible bosses is about a group of dingbats who have shitty bosses so they decide to take revenge. Not only is this movie total bullshit but it's also totally sexist. Like, way more sexist than The Taint (which wasn't actually sexist at all by the way).

3. Priest 3D (2011) United States
Basically, there was nothing else new opening that week and I needed something to review. Priest is about a rebel priest who disobeys church authority so that he can go and hunt vampires.  Bela Lugosi's dead.

2. Cowboys & Aliens (2011) United States
In the year 1873 a spaceship arrives in Arizona with aliens that plan to take over the earth. The aliens have decided to start with the wild west and a nit witted group of cowboys and Indians are ready to defend themselves. The idea, plot and acting were way too over the top for anyone to really care what happened. Boring action and totally nonsensical subplots.

1. Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009) Canada
I was sort of excited to see this film - especially because it spun so much controversy (because of its title) along with the film The Taint.  I could not have been more disappointed though. There was absolutely no artistic merit put into this film. Awful acting, cheesy everything, lame story line and poorly developed characters. Just a total piece of shit.

All written contents copyright 2012 Mallory May

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tyler's Best and Worst Films of 2011

It's finally that time when we at Reel to Reel are releasing our Best and Worst of 2011 lists. It may seem a month late, but really a lot of the big hitters are released during the winter season just before they announce the majority of the award nominees at the beginning of the year. Because of this, we'd say it's pretty fair to catch up on a few of those films a month into 2012; the main reason being that we don't get a lot of these films here in Saskatoon cinemas, or even as online rentals, until January-ish. So we need time to catch up.

Now without wasting any more of your precious time, here are my Favourite Films of 2011.

10. Monsieur Lazhar (2011) Canada
A great performance from Mohamed Fellag grounds Monsieur Lazhar with an emotional complexity that resonates all the way through the film's core - the simple story of how we all need reassurance in a time of loss.

9. Hesher (2010) United States
Joseph Gorden-Levitt plays the title character Hesher, a squatter who shows up out of nowhere and moves in with T.J., a youth morning the death of his mother. Honest, heartbreaking, hilarious, and with no filter between the words of wisdom and words of filth, Hesher is the heavy-metal Mary Poppins*.

8. Attenberg (2010) Greece
Modern Greece, a industrialized world where Marina rejects relationships but strives to loosen up through her friend. Athina Rachel Tsangari choreographs a subtle, haunting, quirky, and poetic story of being disconnected with one's self and the world, and trying to find a way to open up to it all.

7. Melancholia (2011) Denmark
Lars von Trier brings us a film about the pending death of humankind along with the obliteration of Earth via an approaching planet on a collision course. Weaving the effects of a failed marriage, family, and emptiness creates a staggering, sad yet beautiful, and absorbing experience. Kirsten Dunst is amazing in her performance as Justine, the bride not to be.

6. Kill List (2011) United Kingdom
Ben Wheatley is a master at letting his actors improvise to create an authentic sense of realism, yet he expertly gives them the right pieces to weave in to properly drive the story forward. Kill List's two leads feed off each other as their journey leads them deeper into their own personal hell. Scary, tense, and will have your mind wandering back to its mysteries and hauntings for days afterwards.

5. Attack the Block (2011) United Kingdom
Attack the Block emanates a youthful energy that flows throughout the entire film from beginning to end. It's fast paced, exciting, scary when it needs to be, and smartly written. Combining non-stop action, witty dialogue, and characters you actually end up caring about - especially when you don't even like them at the start of the film, it's this current generation's version of the Monster Squad. A pure blast from start to finish.

4. Senna (2010) United Kingdom
The life story of Aryton Senna, ranked as one of the greatest Formula One racers in history and the last fatality of the sport. Told entirely through archival footage, Asif Kapadia mesmerizing documentary lets Senna's life, world views, and humanity completely absorb the audience. It's exhilarating!

3. Marécages (Wetlands) (2011) Canada
An extremely powerful feature debut from Guy Édoin. Marécages truthfully handles the splitting up of a family after the loss of a father and husband tumults the family farm onto the edge of bankruptcy. Love, loss, and grief entangle through great performances from Pascale Bussières and Gabriel Maillé.

2. Beauty Day (2011) Canada
Jay Cheel crafts a documentary that is as compelling and human as it is insane and gut-bustingly hilarious. Beauty Day is a gem that shows us that Cap'n Video is not just an alter-ego of Ralph Zavadil, but that they are one and the same. You'll be smiling throughout the entire film both manically shocked and gloriously entertained. Beauty Day is pure joy. Pure cinematic joy.

1. The Skin I Live In (2011) Spain
Pedro Almodóvar meticulously crafts this thriller with the precision of a surgeon. Every plot point, every little twist, every nuance perfectly affects and effects the story and has the audience entranced in its spell. Bold, suspenseful, sexy, and above all absolutely brilliant, The Skin I Live In is a masterpiece.

Honorable mentions: Drive (2011), Hanna (2011), Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), Project: Nim (2011), Rubber (2010), Midnight in Paris (2011), Hugo (2011), Snowtown (2011), Circo (2010), Red White and Blue (2010), The Tree of Life (2011)

And now let's tear into the absolute Worst Films of 2011. Because let's face it, 2011 had an abundance of shitty films. Especially coming out of Hollywood. Just look at this years Oscar nominees... yeesh.

10. The Woman (2011) United States / Bridesmaids (2011) United States
Lucky McKee makes some giant mistakes in this paint-by-the-numbers captive film based off Jack Ketchum's book - where the author even steals the basic set up from his previous novel The Girl Next Door. Bland, uninteresting, and over-hyped. And what a horrible bubble-gum punk soundtrack. / Bridesmaids is neither funny nor groundbreaking. Kristen Wiig and co reuse the horribly overused Judd Apatow tricks and what we're left with is overly long gross-out comedy that doesn't work. Oh, and a cliched love story of course. Pass.

9. Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2010) Canada
An over-hyped indie film that seems to mysteriously be getting praise all over the place. How so? It's amateurish, poorly acted, and filled with cheap dialogue. I really hope the Soska Sisters next effort American Mary is a step up, because this first feature really shows a lot of first time mistakes.

8. Tower Heist (2011) United States
Brett Ratner takes a ridiculous concept and makes it even more far fetched and unrealistic than it needs to be, complete with all the unfunny one-liners and racial stereotypes from the likes of washed up Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Ben Stiller, and co. Ouch!

7. Thor (2011) United States
Boring action set-pieces along with an uninteresting super hero back story and a running time well over two hours make this less of a super hero action adventure and more of a ploy for marketing the upcoming Avengers movie. Thor? More like Bhor.

6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) United States
Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson once again prove that method acting as if your face has been filled with Botox to show emotion is not a good example for displaying a relationship and love story on the big screen. The falseness and unrealistic approach to the reality and consequences of relationships is too far skewed at this point that I feel sorry for the many young people whom think this to be what "love" is about...

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadow (2011) United States
A convoluted mess of an adventure film, Robert Downey, Jr. once again slurs his way through solving riddles two steps ahead of the audience. How infuriating it is to not be a part of the mystery, but to have it all explained for you in slow-motion mere moments after you've just "seen it" in an indecipherable blaze of quick-cuts and explosions. Headache inducing filmmaking.

4. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) China
A giant convoluted mess of an adventure film. Tsui Hark puts his focus on maintaining the fantastical action rather than focusing on properly explaining the mystery. Filled with more junk than it can handle, Detective Dee loses its audience in it's own labyrinth and ignores explaining the proper clues to get out.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) United States
Completely ignoring the themes and ideas that made the original Planet of the Apes series groundbreaking, Rise resorts to cheap homage that offends instead. Clearly being driven to the big action climax with no heart or thought it all accumulates to nothing more than one-dimensional popcorn fodder.

2. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) United Kingdom
Shit. Literally. Not only does it run at least 45 minutes longer than it needs to be, it goes past the point of shock and just makes you wish you could have that time back in your life. Not because it was "too gross" but because it was simply that boring, pointless, repetitive, and unneeded. Strongly avoid, even if your curiosity has the upper hand.

1. Jack and Jill (2011) United States
Somehow this abortion of filmmaking got the green light... An absolutely loathsome, extremely offensive, and juvenilely unfunny abomination of a movie. Adam Sandler is doubly irritating in this 91 minute cornucopia of product placement, advertisement, and sheer lack of craft (and soul) from all of the cast and crew. Jack and Jill actually stole some of my being by watching it, and I can never ever get that part of me back. There is no repair from seeing this steaming pile of shit. Al Pacino, I cannot forgive you. The worst film I have ever seen. Fuck you, Dennis Dugan and company.

There you have it. The Best and Worst of 2011 according to my film going experiences over the past year. Let's hope 2012 has the same, if not better, caliber in it's independent film selection. But let's really cross our fingers and hope that the mainstream smartens up and puts story over profitability.

...Like that's ever going to happen though. Well, see you at the movies in 2012!

*Heavy-metal Mary Poppins referenced via fellow R2R host Skot via Mark Kermode.

All written contents copyright 2012 Tyler Baptist

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tyler's 2011 Top 10 First Time Older Viewings!

2011 is now over and we're well on our way into 2012. Usually one releases a Best of 2011 list at the end of the year for their favourite new films they've discovered over the course of those 365 days. However I am going to be holding out a bit on that - the reason being that there are still a bunch of films I have yet to see that have been on my watch list. I won't have the opportunity to see them all but a few of those are coming to cinemas, VOD, or home video during the month of January so I'm saving my list until the end of January to see if a few of those make it to the Best of list or maybe the Worst of list.

In the meantime I'm going to entertain you with a different Best of list, something that I've seen populate a lot of critics' and reviewers' lists this year, so I'm joining in on the fun since I do also see a LOT of older films for the first time every year. Here are my 2011 Top 10 First Time Older Viewings!

10. 8½ (1963)
Frederico Fellini's masterpiece weaves a tale that mirrors reality and the filmmaking process. A trip through a creative road block of obsessions, loves, and memories that is both complex and in itself vastly creative.

9. Down Terrace (2009)
One of the darkest black comedies to come along in a long time. Ben Wheatly's English mob family story (and first feature) is pitch-perfect and as brutal as it is hilarious.

8. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
French New Wave film combined with the nightmare-dream nature of a David Lynch film, pre-David Lynch. Alain Renais' visual brilliance and dream-like narrative is mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful.

7. Night of Fear (1972)
Clocking it at only 54 minutes and featuring no dialogue whatsoever, Night of Fear is an Australian rarity that was initially banned and lost until 2005. Expertly paced suspense with a rather unusual cinematic storytelling experience, I immediately watched this a second time after my first viewing as my jaw had hit the floor.

6. Wicked, Wicked (1973)
The only film shot and exhibited in Anamorphic Duo-Vision, this split-screen film does not utilize split-screen in the sense everyone is used to seeing on the big screen. Let's just say 3D is still a gimmick, Duo-Vision was not. As the tagline says "See the hunter, see the hunted - at the same time!" A grandiose and campy MGM thriller that really needs to be officially released!

5. Violence and Flesh (1981)
A Brazilian Pornochanchada film (Brazil's term for sexploitation) that takes the Last House on the Left-esque structure and completely shatters what you'd expect from the characters and situations. If you're a connoisseur of sleaze it's not to be missed.

4. Effects (1979)
From the Pittsburgh filmmakers and actors whom all worked with and around George Romero comes a sinister and effective horror film where a film crew making a slasher film get killed off one by one when fiction becomes reality. Brilliantly twisted, acted, and executed. Another lost gem unavailable until the DVD release a couple of years ago.

3. Science Crazed (1989)
This extremely rare Canadian oddity cannot be described in any number of words. A fever dream - no scratch that - a fever nightmare that no combination of hard drugs would ever be able to emulate. An experience that is not a film in any sense which will forever be etched into the darkest recesses of your memory after viewing. Not even after death will you be able to shake Science Crazed.

2. Gone With the Pope (1976/2009)
The lost Duke Mitchell film completed by Bob Murawski and Sage Stallone of Grindhouse Releasing over the last 15 or so years is a cinematic experience that you cannot afford to miss! Apparently NEVER being released on any home video or viewing format, this story of a group of Italians who decide to kidnap the Pope and charge every Catholic in the world for the ransom is hilarious, important, and features one of the most out of left field endings ever. Run, don't walk, to Gone With the Pope!

1. Mad Foxes (1981)
Revengesplioitaion has never been weirder, crazier, or sleazier than in Mad Foxes (somehow released on VHS as Mad Foxes: Stingray 2 when it is not a sequel to anything...) where a man avenges the murder of his family after a group of Nazi bikers murder his family. One of the most insane pieces of celluloid carnage you will EVER witness! Shocking, completely over the top, and immediately re-watchable.

Honorable mentions: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), Score (1974), The Image (1975), The Grapes of Death (1978), Thirst (1979), Incubus (1981), Deadly Eyes (aka The Rats) (1982), The Doom Generation (1995)

And what Top 10 list is complete without a Bottom 10 list. So here's the worst first time older viewings. You've been warned.

10. Dark Universe (1993)
9. Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus (2009)
8. Scream (1981)
7. ThanksKilling (2009)
6. Bloody Mary (2006)
5. Wages of Sin (2006)
4. Blind Beast Vs. Killer Dwarf (2001)
3. Terror in the Swamp (aka Nutriaman: The Copasaw Creature) (1984)
2. Slashed Dreams (aka Sunburst) (1975)
1. Hellroller (1992)

All written contents copyright 2012 Tyler Baptist