You just have to love end of year lists. Well, you don’t have to I suppose, but they are good fun to compile. Of course, they do get complicated with regards to the actual official release date. In fact it was just last week that myself and the hairy one Justin Laliberty were discussing this very thing. So, when it comes to my list the films have had either theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray (first time and not re-issues) releases or have yet to have releases outside of screeners or a festival showing.
With all that being said, below are my favorite non-horror films of 2011. Any quotes are taken from my reviews (if I reviewed them).
10. Red Hill
This classy Australian flick snuck in with a January DVD release and impressed the hell out of me.
“Beautifully shot, Red Hill truly does have the atmosphere of a classic Western movie. From the shots themselves to the wonderfully fitting score that truly does become a character all of its own. Red Hill is dark, gritty and violent and has some great performances in it. Ryan Kwanten as the wet-behind-the-ears new kid on the block is terrific as his character grows throughout the movie, Tom E. Lewis is menacing as the silent Conway and Bisley as Old Bill is just a wonderful turn by an actor on top of his game.”
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I really didn’t expect to like this quite as much as I did.
“On a first glance it might be the visuals that you take away from this movie, and they are quite stunning for the most part. They do show a few flaws in the latter stages but not enough to spoil the movie for you. The visuals, however, are not the movie’s strongest point though in my eyes. That would go to the emotional depth that Serkis manages to infuse into his role as Caeser. Relying on purely on the actions of his character, we aren’t talking about the talking Apes of Franklin J. Schaeffer’s movie here, he manages to convey everything to the audience.
In a time when many so-called blockbuster movies prove to be nothing more than soulless affairs, here is one that defies the expectations and delivers on just about all fronts. Quite simply I thought this was an excellent film. Highly recommended.”
8. The Stool Pigeon.
Classy flick from Hong Kong
“Dark, and at times almost depressing, The Stool Pigeon is not a movie that will lift your spirits if you are feeling down. However, even with the tone of the movie it never seemed to lag, and as with all good movies the time just seemed to fly by. It may have gotten just a little melodramatic towards the end, yet not enough to undo all the good work that went before.
The Stool Pigeon really is a terrific movie and one that I recommend not only to fans of Asian cinema or crime thrillers, but to fans of good quality cinema full-stop. I would be very surprised if this doesn’t make my top ten movies of 2011, I really think it is that good.”
7. Ip Man 2.
Donnie Yen gives a masterclass performance in this movie about the fella that ended up teaching Bruce Lee.
“Fight scene after fight scene this continues to impress, from mass brawls to one on one fights the choreography is astounding, even with the occasional wire-work thrown in. It is the star of Yen that shines most brightly though, with his fighting almost poetic in its fluidity. There’s none of that annoying hand-slapping that is prevalent in just about every Steven Seagal movie, that looks like two coordinationally challenged Muppets fighting. Here it is all very precise and just amazing to watch, the fights really are that impressive.”
6. Beautiful Boy.
Another movie that surprised me. Great performances and a very bleak story.
“At times uncomfortable to watch, at times painful to watch, Beautiful Boy however is always compelling viewing. It is the kind of movie where you will find yourself constantly asking yourself questions as to what you would do. Of course, I don’t think any of us could truly answer them without first going through something like this. Beautiful Boy is emotional viewing but it is not a movie that cranks up the melodrama in order to illicit a response from the viewer, instead it relies on the events themselves which speak for themselves. You will feel the pain, anger and frustration of the parents as the camera follows them throughout with its almost intrusive and claustrophobic style.”
5. The Man From Nowhere.
Stunning slowburner from Korea. This movie basically kicks ass.
“Character driven with wonderful action scenes, A Man from Nowhere is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The villains are despicable, the (anti)hero Tae-shik is performed perfectly by Bin Won and Sae Ron-Kim as So-Mi is a joy to watch. Quite honestly aside from the ending I really couldn’t find fault with this movie. If you like taut thrillers with its fair share of claret and bone-crunching violence I suggest you check this out.”
A despairing and bleak look into the Bodies in Barrels murders that took place in Australia in the 1990’s. The movie however is far more than just about murder, which I might add is very uncomfortable to watch. Snowtown is very much a snapshot of life, poverty, family and a controlling father figure. A stunning movie.
Loved this movie. To tell the truth it could easily have placed higher.
“So the movie weaves its magic, it’s straightforward yet almost dreamlike in its approach. The script is absolutely wonderful with all the cast delivering it perfectly. In particular Craig Roberts, who is a revelation, is just fantastic and the double-header of Taylor (Red, White and Blue) and Considine (Hot Fuzz) are just great in their roles. The soundtrack is also spot-on, performed by Andrew Hewitt, it never intrudes on the story, but serves only to compliment and enhance it.”
A real love it or hate it movie. Obviously I loved it.
“If I was to try and describe Bellflower in just a few words I would have to say that it came across as a cross between Fight Club and Richard Linklater’s Slacker. Even then I wouldn’t really be doing it justice. It had the feel of an early 90s’ movie yet also felt right at home in the present.
Dark and violent in places, and wonderfully serene in others, Bellflower is a beautifully fucked-up and anarchic movie that I recommend wholeheartedly to all fans of original and challenging cinema.”
Not much to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. Bloody superb throughout. Nicolas Winding Refn gets as close to a mainstream movie as he is likely too, but even then it will scare off some viewers. Brutally violent at times, serenely quiet at others. Ryan Gosling is wonderful in the lead and the rest of the cast are superb too. Fuck it, just watch the damn thing!