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JSHmoviestuff Review of the year 2011

December 31st, 2011  |  Published in In Focus

Welcome to the JSHmoviestuff Review of the year 2011 – my first review of the year!

“Things aren’t always what they seem.” 

The kind of movies that have wowed me for the JSHmoviestuff Review of the year 2011 are ones where appearances can be very deceptive. We’ve had an old school, Cold War spy thriller and then a chilling murder mystery that’s bang up to date; we’ve been enthralled by the workings of the mind and the science fiction of what have been; we’ve wondered who to trust in the Old West and seen the Machiavellian workings of who gets to the top in a political campaign. I’ve so enjoyed starting this movie blog and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it too.

So here’s my pick of the 6 movies that had me on the edge of my seat over the last 12 months in 2011:

Tinker Tailer Soldier SpyI’d have to start with Tomas Alfredson’s masterful adaptation of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With a cast to die for – including Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and Kathy Bates and lead by a performance from Gary Oldman that certainly should have him in the running for ‘Best Actor’ in any awards race, a recreated Cold War look that was sublime, this was intelligent drama by the bucketloads.
Suspenseful, measured and in places gut-wrenchingly shocking, I hope it collects some nice trophies next year.

The Ides of MarchSitting pretty close to that would be George Clooney‘s political drama The Ides of March, featuring my favourite piece of acting of the year from its lead Ryan Gosling – whose face at the end of the movie conveys… I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, except to say, go see it!
Very smart, very timely and very well played by a bunch of actors – Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and Clooney himself – clearly enjoying the material they’re working on, this was a classy treat.

Source CodeAlso worth including is Duncan Jones’s gorgeous sci-fi conundrum Source Code, featuring 2 wonderful performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, as the pilot out of time and place – all razor sharp intelligence, combined with a real fragility that melted your heart – and Vera Farmiga, as his only contact in the real world – all by-the-book straightness to begin with, hiding a real emotional core that wins through in the end.
Its clever, has been mentioned in the same breath as the best Hitchcock and delivers a little bit more with each viewing (3 to date so far!)

True GritAnd let’s not forget the Coen brothers‘ revisiting of True Grit, which without the juggernaut that became The King’s Speech would have given Jeff Bridges another Oscar for his portrayal of Marshal Rooster Cogburn (I’m not begrudging you though Mr Firth, as its been long deserved).
Matching him though on the lonesome trail, were the extraordinary Hailee Steinfeld in her debut movie as the bold and impetuous Mattie Ross and Matt Damon in one of his very best performances (and he’s done a few top ones) as the preening but honourable Texas Ranger LaBeouf.
Beautiful recreation of the old west, courtesy of production designer Jess Gonchor and cinematographer Roger Deakins and most of all with an ending that I’m sure is closer to the Charles Portis novel, as the story moves on in time for an epilogue that leaves you feeling so empty and lost, just like Mattie.

LimitlessI’d also like to mention one of the most visually startling films of the year for me – Neil Burger’s thriller Limitless. Looking into the idea of the mind’s full capability (with the help of a little medical stimulation) this was a beautifully illustrated dark flight of fantasy that contained at its centre, a career gift of a part for Bradley Cooper, who delivers brilliantly. But that’s not all, there’s Robert De Niro in a fantastic cameo, Abbie Cornish delivering yet again another brilliant performance and with Burger’s strong visual style – I loved The Illusionist – this really took my breath away.

The Girl with the Dragon TattooAnd last but by no means least (because I’ve literally just seen it), I have to include David Fincher’s superb, amazing, brilliant version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I’m going run out of superlatives for this film but it really was stunning –  a razor-sharp script from Steven Zaillian, stunning cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth, a who’s-who supporting cast and Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara creating a truly memorable partnership in this version of Stieg Larsson’s thriller. Let’s hope we get to see the same team together again very soon for the next one in the trilogy.

I’m not going to get to see one of the most talked about movies of the tail end of the year, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist before the New Year rings in but it’ll top of my list for January.

Apart from that and being a French film fan, it’s a shame I’ve haven’t seen a movie this year to really rave about – Fred Cavaye’s Point Blank was an exhilarating 80 minute ride but not in the same league as last year’s flawless Mesrine with Vincent Cassel and Jacques Audiard’s awesome A Prophet.

And of the not-so-greats of the year? Well I’m not really into turkey bashing, so I’ll just look forward to the scrumptious offerings that await in 2012. Bring on the action!

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