10 2011 Movie Releases to Watch on Video Now
Many good movies came out in early 2011: Transformers, apes, The Help, a new Twilight ... but there were also some knockout 2011 films that came out in the fall / winter of the year. Catch them on video now:
1. Contagion assaults the viewer with disease in a real world scenario, not in the future and not in some fantasy situation. Real people, like you and I, get sick and die. The film tests the human response, the challenge to values, and the limits of response. This is not my usual cup of tea, but the film has a lot going for it. There is a first rate cast with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mario Catillard. And, there is the direction of Steven Soderbergh. With an advertising campaign warning “Don’t touch anyone!” and focus groups finding it “dark and really, really scary,” this sounds controversial.
2. Drive stars Ryan Gossling in a year that is turning out to belong to him. Gossling is low-keyed un-named character who works as a mechanic, getaway car driver, and a Hollywood stunt man. Unexplainably troubled, he falls in love with a woman (Carey Mulligan) and her little boy. Gossling joins her husband in a heist when the latter is released from prison. The heist goes terribly wrong, and the driver winds up with a price on his head. The film is violent and uneven in tone, full of kinetic energy and long silences. Director Nicolas Winding Refn is the current bad boy of cinema, so his work is worth watching –as is the ever surprising Gossline.
3. Moneyball stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Baseball is more intellectual than other sports that rely on brute force, and “moneyball” is a term applied to a complex statistical analysis on a baseball player’s skills. Now, before I lose you, I agree this is not likely to be the stuff of major motion picture entertainment. On the other hand, this is written by Aaron Sorkin who has focused on the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane and how he pulled together his team. If Sorkin does here what he did with the story of Mark Zuckerberg, it will be a hit.
4. The Ides of March looks like an award contender. The film also stars Ryan Gossling along with George Clooney (who directs), Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti. Loosely based on the failed Howard Dean 2004 Presidential bid, it follows the naïve Gossling who falls victim to the world of treacherous and manipulative campaign operations. The film’s performances will be up for Oscars.
5. In time is going to be a challenge, but it raises some interesting questions. Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cilian Murphy live in a future world where people stop growing old at 25. To live longer, people have to earn additional time. Timberlake, falsely accused of murder, fights to bring down a system that favors the wealthy. The film toys with theories of “in time” which suggest there is a non-spatial continuum of events from the past into the future. The test will be to see if direct Andrew Niccol can make that work.
6. The Rum Diary includes Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhardt in a story by Depp’s friend the late Hunter S. Thompson. Depp plays a New York journalist. Bored and disillusioned, he takes a job at a paper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The tropics and a lot of rum inebriate him into companionship with other rum drinking ex-patriots. Low on action and big on talk, this film is likely to have limited appeal, but it is also likely to show Depp at his best.
7. Anonymous is this year’s English costume drama. The cast includes Vanessa Redgrave and her real life daughter, Joely Richardson. In Elizabeth’s England, she faced a conspiracy to control her succession. In this crisis, Elizabeth was involved in an affair with Edward de Vere, believed by many to have written the works of William Shakespeare to maintain his anonymity at court. Movie trailers market this as a dark thriller.
8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy presents the John le Carre cold war espionage thriller. It includes all the plots and textured sub-plots peopled by British and Russian intelligence agents. Le Carre calls up the retired master spy, George Smiley, to navigate the maze. Gary Oldman takes on the role played by Alec Guiness (1979). Others in the cast are Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Ciaran Hinds. The English do these things best, but it will take some writing skills to do this existential thriller justice. (After all, the 1979 mini-series was seven hours long.)
9. Another Earth is the winner of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival stars Brit Marling, the most exciting starlet in some time. There are no aliens in this science-fiction. A man and a woman have a tragic encounter and reconnect later in their lonely lives. All the time, an exact duplicate of the earth looms in the sky near the moon. Its presence is unnerving and raises so many questions. Among the possibilities is that history on Earth 2 has been parallel or diametrically opposite. Could the tragedy be undone or their relationship changed? The film challenges but answers nothing. You can expect Brit Marling and co-writer and director Mike Cahill to be Academy Award finalists.
10. The Guard is the comedy on this list. A story of murder, blackmail, and corruption, it evokes the same worlds as In Bruges (2008). Brendan Gleason plays an off-the-wall Irish cop who is required to team up with a by-the-book FBI agent, played by Don Cheadle, to bring down an international drug ring. The focus of the movie is the great personal chemistry between these two fine actors. This is an adult comedy without the Seth Rogan language.
There are other films on their way. You can count on more slasher films, some new animated films, and more 3-D. But, unless there is a real “sleeper” out there, these movies are the ones you want to see.
The Best Movies of 2011
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