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By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com:This is the third of several year-end wrap essays detailing the year in film. This time, it’s about highlighting the good or great films that slipped under the radar somehow. Some got rave reviews and wide releases but stiffed at the box office while some never made it out of limited release. All are worth tracking down and all are, with one exception I will point out, now available on DVD/Blu Ray/download/etc. And nearly all of them are not hardcore independent films, but seemingly mainstream dramas and comedies that would have likely merited a wide release even a few years ago. Once again, these will be in alphabetical order.
- Scott Mendelson
It was the year Harry Potter ended, the Muppets returned, Ryan Gosling drove, Apes rose, Matt Damon bought a zoo, and a bunch of raunchy Bridesmaids made us pee our pants (or wedding dresses) laughing.
Yeah, we're pretty happy with you, 2011 movies.
As for counting down the best of the best, we're happy/relieved to report that coming to an in-house consensus was pretty easy, and entirely non-violent. And our number one pick? Even easier to decide.
Tell us your favorite movies in the comments section, and for a taste of sour, check out our picks for the 5 Worst Movies of 2011.
So many movies this year promised edge-of-your-seat action and nonstop popcorn scarfing, but few delivered like the fourth installment in this would-be aging franchise. Tom Cruise is at his best, reminding us that his charisma and ability to sell a crazy fight »
- NextMovie Staff
Christopher Plummer and Mike Mills promoting "Beginners"Sometimes the beginning of awards season offers pleasant surprises. Such is the case with Beginners, one of the year's best films, which recently debuted on DVD and is now suddenly on the shortlist of potential Oscar contenders with early and surprisingly robust attention from both the Gotham Awards where it won the top prize and the Independent Spirit Awards (3 nominations including Best Feature).
I had the opportunity to speak with writer/director Mike Mills recently about Beginners, his second feature. The film famously draws heavily from Mills' own life to depict the relationship between a lonely artist named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his gay father Hal (Christopher Plummer) who comes out late in life shortly before succumbing to cancer. Oliver does his own romantic soul searching with an actress named Anna (Melanie Laurent) after his father's death.
The film moved me deeply this »
- NATHANIEL R
Writer-director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) drew on his own personal history for Beginners (Universal), a moving indie drama about a lonely thirtysomething (Ewan McGregor) coming to terms with his father’s late-life change in sexual orientation and subsequent death from lung cancer. As the father, Christopher Plummer dominates the film with his touching exuberance and heart, and whenever it lapses into quirkiness—much of it dealing with McGregor’s on-again/off-again romance with an equally commitment-phobic French actress (Mélanie Laurent)—Plummer’s performance swaddles the film like a warm blanket… Tom Hanks’ directorial career got off to a winning start »
On her Twitter homepage, bestselling author Caitlin Moran sardonically describes herself as "a woman, yes, but still funny", a reference to the widely held misapprehension that comedy is somehow a male preserve. Certainly, the hugely saleable gross-out genre that has flourished in cinemas in recent years has been dominated by cocksure bromances in which women have been required to pay solidly secondary roles. Encouraging, then, that Bridesmaids (2011, Universal, 15) has become a bona fide ballsy comic hit, taking just shy of $300m in theatres worldwide and providing more consistent laughs for audiences (both male and female) than The Hangover, Due Date or any of their endlessly sequelled stablemates.
Key to the film's appeal is co-writer and rising star Kristen Wiig, last seen throwing off the shackles of religion in Paul, excelling here as the former best friend ousted by a pushy new queen »
- Mark Kermode
Having already premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, we now have the exclusive poster to "The Lie," directed, written and starring Joshua Leonard of "Humpday" and "The Blair Witch Project" fame. Co-starring Jess Weixler ("Teeth"), Mark Webber ("Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World"), Alia Shawkat ("Arrested Development"), Jane Adams ("Happiness"), Kelli Garner ("Thumbsucker," "Pan Am") and an appearance by Gerry Bednob ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin"), "The Lie" is based on a T.C. Boyle short story that first appeared in the New Yorker and centers on a man (Leonard) whose life inadvertently changes when he tells a lie to get… »
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2011
Price: DVD Tba, Blu-ray Tba
The comedy drama Beginners got lots of acclaim when it was in theaters, thanks in large part to its leading actors.
Ewan McGregor (The Ghost Writer) plays graphic designer Oliver, whose life comes unhinged when his elderly father (Christopher Plummer, The Last Station) makes two announcements — he has terminal cancer and he has a young male lover. Oliver realizes how much of a beginner he is about romantic love when he meets the free spirited Anna, played by Melanie Laurent, who wowed us in Inglourious Basterds.
Rated R, Beginners was called “immensely moving, funny and involving” by the UK Guardian.
The movie had only a limited release to theaters in the U. »
Actor Seth Green has largely stuck to animated comedy lately, playing Chris Griffin in Family Guy, providing motion capture for Mars Needs Moms, and writing for, doing voices for, and producing his stop-motion Adult Swim show, Robot Chicken.
Having more than proven himself in comedy, Green’s gearing up to give drama a try. The Hollywood Reporter confirms the actor has been cast opposite Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker) in The Story of Luke, a film about an autistic man (Pucci) trying to find a job and a girlfriend. Green stars as Zach, a character who “plays an instrumental role in coaching Luke in his journey.”
The Story of Luke was written by Alonso Mayo based on his own documentary, Just Like Anyone, about families of children with developmental disabilities at his mother’s education and rehabilitation school in Peru. It will be Mayo’s fictional directorial debut.
Cary Elwes and »
- email@example.com (thefilmstage.com)
Christopher Plummer is superb as the 75-year-old who belatedly reveals his true sexuality to his son
Six years ago the American music-video director and graphic designer Mike Mills assembled a gifted cast (including Tilda Swinton, Vince Vaughn and Keanu Reeves) to make his low-budget independent feature debut – a likable comedy called Thumbsucker set in Oregon. Its hero is Justin, a troubled teenager in the Holden Caulfield mould with difficult parents. His mother (Tilda Swinton) is a psychiatric nurse dreaming of an escape to romance in the big city, his father a supermarket manager who had hoped to be a professional footballer. The diffident lad is given medication for an attention deficit disorder that temporarily transforms him into a confident near genius.
It's an interesting, truthful little film, and Mills has now followed it up with an altogether remarkable picture set at the time he was making Thumbsucker, and with an »
- Philip French
It may be the height of summer but that doesn’t mean our cinema-going choices are restricted to wizards & robots beating the hell out of each other. No, as is the way with every blockbuster season, a few smaller low-budget movies always pop up, often doing well through counter-marketing or good word of mouth. From the outset, Beginners certainly looks like one of those movies, as it’s as small-scale a movie you’ll see this summer season. MIke Mills got great acclaim when he directed indie picture ‘Thumbsucker’ a few years ago, and despite the almost overbearing hype around it, I loved it. Indie movies can be spectacularly hit & miss – often they’ll be so dry you forget they’re meant to entertain – but Thumbsucker really stood out as an original and touching movie. I’m glad to say that Beginners, which is heavily autobiographical, is very much in the same vein. »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Leon)
Ewan McGregor stars in a charming, offbeat romantic comedy
The title of Mike Mills's 2005 feature, Thumbsucker, was packed with infantilism, yearning and retreat. There's plenty of all three in his new, sweet-natured romantic comedy of bad timing. It has something of Annie Hall in its nervous romance played out with montages, voiceovers and subtitle/translation gags, and some modified Anglo-Godardian riffs with still images, and a man, a woman and a dog forming their own band apart as they caper excitably around Los Angeles. For some, the quirk-level may be set too high and it is sometimes a little callow in its sophistication, yet that sophistication strikes me as real enough; it is a poignant, high-concept indie picture, and the proceedings are underwritten by a warm performance from Christopher Plummer.
Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a thirtysomething graphic artist who specialises in ironised cartoon images – a wan, passive-aggressive and weirdly unsatisfying kind of humour. »
- Peter Bradshaw
Beginners, the new film from Mike Mills, has been promoted oddly. The posters currently adorning the country are bright, white affairs, complete with a grinning Ewan McGregor, a pouting Mélanie Laurent, and a dashing, neckerchief-clad Christopher Plummer. There’s also a cute dog, for good measure.
When coupled with the most basic of plot synopses - that 70-odd year old Hal (Plummer) comes out as gay to his son, Oliver (McGregor) - it looks like we’d be in for a pleasant, buoyant indie comedy.
However, the roots of Beginners go deeper. This is actually a very personal story, unapologetic in its tone, and marked by grief. Mills’ own father came out in his old age, and died only a few years later. The resulting »
Beginners is a tale of Mills's seventysomething father coming out. But don't call him quirky, he's after big, big audiences
One could be forgiven for associating director Mike Mills with the word "quirky". His debut film Thumbsucker was a little-seen critically acclaimed tale of a young appendage-obsessed man, complete with a cornucopia of odd characters (including Keanu Reeves as a creepy, philosophical dentist). His music video résumé (Moby, Yoko Ono and Air) practically demands the word's use. Plus, he's married to Miranda July, she of "quirky indie darling" film Me And You And Everyone We Know. But mention the "Q" word, and it's like a red rag to a very chilled out, straggly-bearded, bull.
"I hate it, I really do," he says. "I hate all those words – quirky, indie, and dysfunctional. It's been turned into a brand and it shouldn't be. And they're never positive, these words. They're always used »
- Andrea Hubert
Beginners, the new drama from director Mike Mills, was recently released in theaters on June 3. We are celebrating this new indie, and we're giving away an iPod Shuffle, a dropcard to download the entire Beginners soundtrack, and the book Drawings From the Film Beginners by director Mike Mills. These prizes will surely go fast, so enter this contest today.
Here's How To Win!
Just "Like" (fan) the MovieWeb Facebook page (below) and then leave a comment below telling us why these prizes must be yours!
If you already "Like" MovieWeb, just leave a comment below telling us why these prizes must be yours!
I've adored Ewan McGregor since his career-making turn in 1996's "Trainspotting." Since then, the actor has jumped from making big blockbusters like the "Star Wars" movies (Episodes I to III) to making small, independent films like his current Focus Features release, "Beginners."
He plays Oliver in the film, an ebullient but depressed artist who never really becomes close to his father, Hal (the wonderful Christopher Plummer), until the latter comes out of the closet at 75. Five years later, he dies.
"Beginners" is a quasi-tragicomic film that is emotionally rich and undeniably human. It's writer/director Mike Mills' homage to his real father who also came out at 75. The film speaks volumes about finding oneself amidst adversities. In this interview, we talked about:
*** How writer/director Mike Mills' letter convinced the actor to play the part
*** Working with Mills
*** How he bonded with Plummer
*** His rollercoaster relationship with Melanie »
Filed under: Celebrity Interviews, Moviefone Canada
'Thumbsucker' director Mike Mills is back in theaters with his second feature film, 'Beginners.' A highly personal film for the indie filmmaker, 'Beginners' followers Oliver (Ewan McGregor) -- a lonely, pensive guy whose old, widowed father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet in his final days, when he is stricken with cancer. As Oliver comes to terms with this new version of his father, as well as his father's mortality, he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent), a mysteriously charming woman who offers a romantic balance to the turmoil in Oliver's life.
Moviefone sat down with Mills last month and talked about how he took truths from his own life -- his father coming out and subsequently dying -- and crafted not a biographical portrait, but rather a look into happiness, loss, and self-discovery.
Continue Reading »
- Monika Bartyzel
In a summer filled with blockbusters like Thor, Pirates, X-Men and Harry Potter, it's easy to lose sight of some of the smaller gems making their way to the big screen. Enter Beginners.
Directed by Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) and starring Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor, Beginners is a funny and emotional film that tells the story of Hal (Plummer), diagnosed with terminal cancer and newly out of the closet at the age of 75. Unwilling to let his health concerns dampen his spirit, Hal's willingness to fully embrace life ultimately brings him closer to his introverted, reserved son, Oliver (McGregor).
Cineplex recently sat down with Mills, who wrote the film based on his own struggles with identity, happiness and losing his father, to talk about cinematic catharsis, being inspired by Woody Allen and why this isn't a documentary. »
- Rob Lazar
Chicago – What would be the circumstance if after a mother dies, the father suddenly comes out as a gay? Writer/director Mike Mills had that situation occur, and created the new film “Beginners,” featuring Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor.
The highly personal but unusual story is sublimely handled by the two leads, and given sure guidance both through Mill’s story and direction. His resume includes graphic designer, filmmaker and artist. In 1996 he co-founded The Directors Bureau with Roman Coppola, which included Sofia Coppola.
He then directed advertising campaigns and music videos, and worked in the short documentary form with “Deformers” (2000) and “Paperboys” (2001). His first feature film was the highly acclaimed indie favorite “Thumbsucker” (2005), which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. He is married to another indie film director, Miranda July [”You and Me and Everyone We Know”].
Photo credit: Focus Features
Mike Mills was »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Say what you will about him, but Mitt Romney doesn't do, or not do, anything by accident. Take June 2, when the former Massachusetts governor traveled to a quaint farm in Stratham, N.H., to "announce" his foregone conclusion of a 2012 presidential campaign. Romney has to overcome several mountainous challenges before capturing the Republican nomination, and so he spent most of the day trying to reduce them to molehills. To thaw his icy persona, Romney passed out his "famous" family chili and surrounded himself with bales of hay. To account for his moderate governing record, he reminded listeners that the Bay State legislature was "over 85 percent Democrat." And to soften concerns about "Romneycare," he admitted it was "not perfect, »
- Walter Kirn
Commencing on the 8th June, the Annual Sydney Film Festival (now in its 58th year) promises to be a sterling celebration of modern cinema from around the world. Perhaps not as glitzy as Cannes, nor as iconic as Sundance or Toronto, the Sff has in any case plenty to recommend it, with one of the most impressively diverse film line ups I’ve had the pleasure of glancing over in a long time. Fifth generation Chinese director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) is Jury President of the Official Competition where 12 films will be in competition for the $60,000 film prize.
The festival will open with a Gala premiere of Joe Wright’s (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) pursuit thriller Hanna, with Aussie’s answer to Meryl Streep actress Cate Blanchett in attendance on the red carpet and will close with Mike Mills’ (Thumbsucker) Toronto Film Festival triumph, the drama of later life-changing »
- Oliver Pfeiffer
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