27 Dresses and one new star can't quite rescue this romcom

Verdict: Katherine Heigl rises above routine chick flick

Had I never seen a romantic comedy before, I might have been more impressed by 27 Dresses, a machine-made product that, like a poorly made bridesmaid's dress,
makes the leading lady look good but falls apart much too rapidly.

Towards the end, as the characters were being made to behave more and more idiotically to fit in with the demands of Hollywood romcom, I was groaning and
longing for it to be over.
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Katherine Heigl
Funny girl: Heigl convinces as the perennial bridesmaid
The main pleasure is the chance to see the emergence of Katherine Heigl (who last impressed in the lads movie Knocked Up) as one of the few leading actresses who can carry a chick flick and give it some authentic feeling.
She manages to be funny and touching as Jane, a selfless elder sister to flaky Tess (Malin Akerman, a Cameron Diaz lookalike).
Always the bridesmaid but never the bride, with 27 bridesmaids¿ dresses to prove it, Jane has to grit her teeth and smile when the boss shes had a crush on for years, a
mountaineering entrepreneur (Edward Burns), falls for her younger sister  and Jane has to arrange the wedding.
You may have spotted that there's a huge flaw in that premise, and its contained in the two dread words 'Edward Burns'.
Back in 1995, writer-director-actor Burns became the great white hope of American indie cinema with his debut, The Brothers McMullen.
But his unique ability to be smug, smarmy and uncharismatic has meant that he has been on the big screen with decreasing frequency. 27 Dresses shows why.
Age has not made him any more interesting, and he remains a charisma-free zone.
This fatally damages the movie.
It makes us wonder if our lovely heroine is really as smart as she appears (how can she be when she defines her happiness through her relationship with this self-satisfied dork?), and removes any tension as to whether he and she end up together.
As Burns¿ star has waned, so James Marsden¿s has ascended. Through a series of flashy character roles in X-Men, The Notebook and Superman Returns, culminating in
his hilariously thick Prince Edward in Enchanted, he has established himself as handsome but sparky: a   lookalike, but with a sense of humour.
Marsden puts a lot of energy into playing Kevin, a newspaper reporter who¿s cynical about marriage but writes beautifully about weddings.
The only two sequences which truly come alive in 27 Dresses are where Heigl
shows off her hideous dresses, and she and Marsden get drunk and sing in a bar- and even these are based on equivalent sequences in Pretty Woman and My Best
Friend's Wedding.
But the formula-reliant screenplay requires Kevin to do such sneaky, creepy things that
not even Marsden's charm can convince us he's worthy of Jane.
And then she starts behaving so spitefully and stupidly that she forfeits our sympathy as well.
The film is being advertised as from the writer who brought you The Devil Wears Prada - but Aline Brosh McKenna's script is more of a throwback to her first two,
highly forgettable romcoms, Three To Tango (1999) and Laws Of Attraction (2004).
Some of 27 Dresses is frothy and fun. Too much is leaden, cliched and predictable, including almost the whole of its second half.

Chin up, it's not the end of the world. On second thoughts...


2012 (12A)

2012 is Roland Emmerich's vision of the Apocalypse, which means it's full of spectacular disasters.
Los Angeles slides into the Pacific. St Peter's in Rome collapses on top of praying thousands.
A tidal wave makes an enormous aircraft carrier crush the White House. John and Edward survive all the way through to making the Christmas No 1. OK, I made that last bit up.
John Cusack in the laughably crass blockbuster 2012
Disaster epic: John Cusack in the laughably crass blockbuster, 2012
Even for a Roland Emmerich film, though, it's laughably crass, with the destruction of 99per cent of the human race given less screen-time and human concern than the saving of someone's pet dog.
But the CGI effects are amazing, and this is cinema's ultimate tribute to the joy of blowing stuff up.
Emmerich's last disaster film The Day After Tomorrow was an attempt to show his caring, environmental side, and 2012 is perhaps best appreciated as an epic piece of recycling.
He's reused a storyline from Spielberg's War Of The Worlds about a divorced dad re-earning the love of his ex-wife and children, with John Cusack standing in for
Also, he's borrowed the Jeff Goldblum sub-plot from his own hit Independence Day, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the principled scientist battling the corrupt political establishment, represented here by Oliver Platt.
It's rubbish, of course. You shouldn't attend this kind of movie expecting King Lear. Nor should you expect light and shade. Roland Emmerich doesn't do comic relief. Well, not intentionally, anyway.
However, if you want massive spectacle, an orgy of disaster-movie clichés and schadenfreude run riot, you won't be disappointed. Cinematic popcorn doesn't come poppier, cornier (or cheesier) than this.
Verdict: The biggest disaster movie ever

The Tourist: A very Jolie adventure for Johnny

The Tourist: (12A)

Verdict: Preposterous tosh, and hugely enjoyable
Rating: Rating: 5 Star Rating
Have you ever watched an old Hitchcock caper starring Cary Grant and murmured ‘they don’t make them like that any more’? If so, The Tourist is the picture for you.
It’s a glossy, sophisticated, gloriously improbable romp — escapist fun for these austere times.
A shy, unassuming American tourist on a train to Venice (Johnny Depp in the Cary Grant role) is lured by an absurdly glamorous Englishwoman (Angelina Jolie, never more sensually enigmatic) into a devilish web of dangerous intrigue.
Dangerous intrigue: A shy American tourist (Johnny Depp) is lured into a devlish web by glamorous Englishwoman Angelina Jolie in The Tourist
Dangerous intrigue: A shy American tourist (Johnny Depp) is lured into a devlish web by glamorous Englishwoman Angelina Jolie in The Tourist
First, the British police (under a grumpy Timothy Dalton and a fanatical Paul Bettany) and then Russian gangsters (led by a Bond-villainish Steven Berkoff) wrongly identify him as an elusive master-criminal.
He’s also being followed by a dark, handsome, mystery man (Rufus Sewell at his most laconic). Who on earth could that be?
The Tourist has been promoted as an Oscar contender, but it’s nothing of the sort. It is a luxurious trifle with nothing serious to say — a vastly superior version of the -Cameron Diaz misfire, Knight And Day.
The good news is that there are twists and chases a-plenty, and it juggles its hoary old clichés with supreme confidence.
A remake of an abstruse 2005 French thriller called Anthony Zimmer (which starred Yvan Attal and Sophie Marceau), it’s written with tongues firmly in cheek by the director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who gave us the much more critically respectable The Lives Of Others, that consummate professional Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and Christopher McQuarrie, whose best work this is since The Usual Suspects.
At least three other scribes were involved — Jeffrey Nachmanoff, William Wheeler and Jerome Salle, but their names appear to have dropped off the credits, along with any mention of Anthony Zimmer.
The film’s had more than its share of production difficulties, with a couple of directors (Lasse Hallstrom and Bharat Nalluri), two male stars ( and Sam Worthington) and one leading lady (Charlize Theron) all falling by the wayside.
Fortunately, those problems aren’t visible onscreen. It may be significant that none of those who have dropped out has ever been noted for his or her sense of humour.
The end product is extremely silly, bordering on high camp — so much so that it might easily have been directed by Baz Luhrmann.
I guessed what it was up to from reel one, but that didn’t stop me from being thoroughly entertained all the way to its joyously barmy conclusion.
Not to be taken even half-way seriously, this is — if you’re on the right, ironic wavelength — the most nostalgic of escapist pleasures.

Knight And Day: Cruise loses the plot and so does everyone else in an atrocious action movie

Knight And Day (12A)

Verdict: Far-fetched farrago for the very easily pleased
Rating: 1 Star Rating
The miracle is that Patrick O’Neill was able to pitch his screenplay for Knight And Day and not get carted off to a home for the criminally insane.
Someone at 20th Century Fox must have known his script needed work, for no fewer than nine writers were involved on its epic, five-year journey to a screen near you.
The script they came up with is unfilmable, but director James Mangold decided to shoot it anyway. Maybe it was to put it out of its misery.
On their bike: Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise in a scene from their new film, Knight And Day
On their bike: Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise in a scene from their new film, Knight And Day
Even to try to make sense of the storyline is to risk incurable brain damage, but here goes.
We are asked to believe, first, that the CIACIACIA, in order to murder a rogue agent (played with maniacal self-confidence by ), would decide not to get rid of him unobtrusively, but to buy up every seat on a scheduled American internal flight and get their operatives to assassinate him in mid-air. One by one.

They also allow on to the flight an innocent woman whom the rogue spy bumped into at the airport. Why? Um, you got me. Because she’s played by Cameron Diaz, I guess.
Still suspending your disbelief? Well, here comes a really big test.
What do you think this woman does when the guy with the scary smile she’s just bumped into at the airport murders every other passenger in mid-air, along with the flight crew, crashes the plane into a cornfield, drugs her, breaks into her apartment,
undresses her, shoots her fireman boyfriend and carries on killing dozens more people, many of them federal government agents, before drugging her again, stripping her again and carting her off to an island in the Azores?
On-screen chemistry? Tom and Cameron in another scene from the action-packed Knight And Day
On-screen chemistry? Tom and Cameron in another scene from the action-packed Knight And Day
Most women I know would manage to raise more than a feeble objection, but not Ms Diaz. Would you believe she just smiles and does everything she can to help him kill a few score more government employees? No, me neither.
Incidentally, don’t ask how he smuggled her through customs while she was under general anaesthetic.
Whenever director Mangold encounters a really gaping plot-hole, he fades to black — and suddenly his leading couple have jumped to some new, equally preposterous set-piece in another glossy location.
It’s a shameless variation on the hoary old get-out clause: ‘With one bound, he was free.’
We’re even asked to believe that Cruise knows exactly when the brilliant new invention he’s carrying in his pocket will accidentally explode — which happens to be seconds after he’s handed it over to the arch-villain. Convenient, or what?
OK, I know Knight And Day is meant to be escapism.
And I would have been willing to go along with this as harmless fun if the dialogue had been witty or the whole thing had been played as a spoof of idiotic action movies; but most of the cast behave as if it’s The Bourne Identity.
It’s a terrible waste of proper actors who are paid to find the reality in characters.
Highs and lows: The career so far of Cameron Diaz

And Peter Sarsgaard (so impressive in An Education) obviously thought so, too, because the actor, who’s signposted early on as the villain and then — unsurprisingly — turns out to be precisely that, intones every one of his lines in a monotone,
as though it’s being fed to him via an earpiece.
There hasn’t been a performance this openly scornful of Hollywood since Edward Norton’s in the remake of The Italian Job.
All I can say about Cruise is that he seems to have lost what’s left of his mind. He emanates a terrifying vacuity, and thinks that flashing his teeth a lot is the same thing as charm and sex appeal.
Maybe this will persuade some people, but Gordon Brown made the same assumption during the last general election, and look what happened to him.


The recession is starting to bite. cut his advance for Knight And Day from $20 million to
$11 million
Diaz, whose career choices are looking increasingly desperate, struggles — and who wouldn’t? — to make a seamless transition from being frazzled and panic-stricken one moment to an ice-cool assassin the next, and ends up looking like a demented duck.
I imagine some people will enjoy Knight And Day. For them, it will be enough that Cruise and Diaz look good for their age and travel to exotic places.
For them, it will be worth the high price of admission to see a couple of movie stars survive high-speed chases, several thousand poorly-aimed bullets and a load of computer-generated bullocks.
That’s not a misprint. Cruise and Diaz actually become involved in the Pamplona bull run, which the filmmakers try to convince us takes place in Seville.
Not many blockbusters have been mounted with quite such brazen contempt for the public.
The last one I can remember was the near-identical Killers, in which Ashton Kutcher grinned cheesily as the international super-spy, and Katherine Heigl got to play the blonde homebody who turned ruthless assassin.
Yet I wouldn’t deny that you may have an incredulous grin on your face, at least for the first few minutes, if you’re willing to sit there passively and let Knight And Day wash over you.
I’m just pointing out that it could and should have been a whole lot better, and would have been if anyone involved had given a damn about quality.
Toy Story 3D was a timely reminder that summer blockbusters can be made with care, love and intelligence.
Even lightweight entertainment doesn’t have to be this atrocious.

Has Tom lost the plot?

Bryan Singer's wartime thriller suffers from the fact that we all know that the attempt by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg ( ) to assassinate Hitler (David Bamber) failed.
The only surprise is that so many people were in on the conspiracy and it came so close to success.
Unfortunately, Singer is uninterested in exploring the issues or characters. A fine, mostly British cast is wasted on roles which are too simplistic to warrant them turning up.

Under-powered: Tom Cruise, far left, is out of his depth in Valkyrie
Under-powered: Tom Cruise, far left, is out of his depth in Valkyrie
Tom Wilkinson comes off best, as a canny officer trying to cover himself against every eventuality.
Cruise can be great when playing characters who are fiercely driven, such as the self-help guru in Magnolia or the aggressive sports agent Jerry Maguire. But here he is under-powered and out of his depth.
The script doesn't give him much to work with  -  we never understand Von Stauffenberg's aristocratic roots or his political beliefs  -  but Cruise is outclassed by a supporting cast that includes Carice van Houten (from the superior wartime thriller Black Book), Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh.
Symptomatic of Cruise's shortcomings is the fact he can't be bothered to change his American accent, which makes him seem like a Hollywood interloper.
Virtually everyone else sounds English, although a few of the baddies, Hitler included, go for 'Allo 'Allo! German.
I was never bored, and the period detail is lovingly observed; but there is a sense of an opportunity missed.
Does this picture tell us anything we didn't know, apart from that late on, when Hitler was losing his grip and the war, some of his former supporters turned against him? I fear not.
Verdict: Top Gun with jackboots

Mission Impossible 4: It's not deep or meaningful... but the stunts are pretty awesome

Brad Bird made his name with two brilliant animated films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Mission Impossible 4 is his first live-action film, and it confirms that he  is a first-rate director.
There are three sequences here – a break from a Russian prison, a hazardous climb up the tallest building in the world in Dubai, and a climactic fight in an automated multi-storey car park in Mumbai – that rank among the best not just of the year, but of all time.

It's not deep or meaningful: But Tom Cruise's latest movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is packed with some awesome stunts
It's not deep or meaningful: But Tom Cruise's latest movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is packed with some awesome stunts
It’s these that make Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol superior to the other films in this series, and very much worth the price of admission. See it, if you can, on an Imax screen, where the stunts are breath-taking.
The story, regrettably, is a routine affair that never departs from formula. Yet another madman is intent on bringing about a world war. He’s called Kurt Hendricks, and is played uninterestingly by Michael Nykvist.
Apparently, this nutter’s belief is that only when the world has succumbed to nuclear annihilation will there be lasting peace. It’s a miracle this guy can get anyone to be his homicidal henchmen.

Action packed: Cruise's hazardous climb up the tallest building in Dubai is particularly breathtaking
Action packed: 's hazardous climb up the tallest building in Dubai is particularly breathtaking
Hendricks blows up the Kremlin and pins the blame on America - more specifically agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team (Simon Pegg and Paula Patton).
After the death by explosion of their boss (Tom Wilkinson), Hunt and co know they are on their own as rogue agents though, as usual in this series, they never seem to suffer from any shortage of money or hi-tech gadgetry.
Major faults remain from the first three pictures. Ethan Hunt must be the blandest, most boring action hero in modern cinema.
The shape of the screenplay and cheesy attempts at flippant wisecracks are familiar from too many Bond films, and it’s curious to see a modern film still peddling a view of Russian-American relations that dates from the Cold War.
No one’s going to pretend this film is deep or meaningful but, at its best, it really is pretty awesome.
Mission Impossible 4 goes on general release on Boxing Day.

Tropic Thunder: Plenty of talent but the joke gets lost in the jungle

Tropic Thunder (15)

The first ten minutes of this are so hilarious, it's a mystery why the other 97 are so lacking in laughs.
The opening contains three fake movie trailers which establish the shameful back-story of the leading actors, and promise a rip-roaring satire on modern Hollywood.
Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, a pampered action superstar whose career is on the skids.
Lacking in laughs: Tropic Thunder degenerates into the kind of banal, bloated Hollywood action movie that it sets out to parody
We know this because we see extracts from his comprehensively failed bid for Oscar glory, Simple Jack, in which he played a mentally impaired farm hand who could talk to animals.
It was so horrible a flop  -  presumably as bad as Robin Williams's Jack  -  that Tugg's next movie, The Chitlin And The Dude, co-starred him with the world's worst comedian, Martin Lawrence.

Then there's Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), the fat, effeminate, drug-addicted star of The Fatties comedy franchise, in which he plays all the leading characters, every one of them noisily flatulent. You could say he's the white Eddie Murphy.
Finally, there's a trailer for Satan's Alley (a kind of medieval Brokeback Mountain), starring five-times Oscar-winning Aussie Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr) as an Augustinian monk tormented by homosexual feelings for a fellow-priest (a caring cameo by Tobey Maguire).
The funniest of all three trailers, and alleged 'winner of the Beijing Film Festival's coveted Crying Monkey Award', this shows Lazarus as a master of the martyred stare, the politically correct stance, the moué of a method actor with galloping narcissism. I hope Russell Crowe sees it.
Then we're into our main feature, which is about the making of a big, extravagantly dumb war movie starring all three actors.
The most ludicrously miscast is Kirk Lazarus, who has had his skin surgically dyed black in order to play Afro-American sergeant Lincoln Osiris, and refuses to drop out of character 'until I have completed the DVD commentary'.
Ben Stiller graphic
This is much to the annoyance of the one genuine black man in the picture, Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), a multi-millionselling hip-hop artist whose biggest hit was I Love Tha Pussy and who's heavily into his menswear line for Gap called 'Alpa Chinos'.
An early production catastrophe leads to incompetent British director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) being bawled out by foul-mouthed studio executive Les Grossman (an almost unrecognisable Tom Cruise, playing an obscene parody of Harvey Weinstein) for being $100 million over budget and a month behind schedule  -  no mean feat after five days of shooting.
Cockburn is encouraged by real-life Vietnam veteran John 'Four Leaf' Tayback (Nick Nolte) to shoot the rest of the film ' guerilla-style', with hidden cameras and microphones.
The only snag is that the actors fall foul of a heavily armed gang of Oriental drug-runners led by a machinegun- toting child soldier.
It's very uneven, with Black and Coogan competing to give the least funny performance. Coogan looks like winning early on, but is blown up by a merciful land mine, so Black's wearisome schtick carries on for much, much longer.
Best actor in the movie, though his diction makes him hard to hear, is Robert Downey Jr, with his opaque pronouncements on his craft ('I don't read the script  -  the script reads me').
His most memorable and controversial speech comes when he lectures Tugg Speedman on where he went wrong in Simple Jack.
Tom Cruise
, pictured at the film's premiere, plays an obscene parody of Harvey Weinstein
'Everybody knows you never go full retard,' Lazarus tells him.
'What do you mean?' asks the bewildered action star.
'Check it out,' replies Lazarus. 'Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Autistic, sure. Not retarded.
'You know Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump? Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded.
Peter Sellers, Being There. Infantile, yes. Retarded, no.
You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.
You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, I Am Sam. Remember? Went full retard, went home empty-handed.'
You could say that speech is in bad taste, and several people have  -  but it's a pretty accurate commentary on the way Hollywood romanticises mental disabilities and its stars shamelessly angle for Oscars.
The movie's funniest when skewering Hollywood from an insider's perspective.
However, the targets for the film's satire are a little too familiar: self-obsessed actors, status-crazy agents (Matthew McConaughey, stepping in for Owen Wilson after his suicide attempt, plays a memorably deranged one) and money-grubbing studio heads.
Cruise establishes Grossman as a terrific grotesque, but then doesn't know what to do with him except a funny dance, influenced by Ricky Gervais in The Office.
As in last week's Pineapple Express, the piece degenerates into pretty much the kind of banal, bloated Hollywood action movie that it sets out to parody.
Ben Stiller co-writes and directs, but this isn't as consistently funny as his last effort, Zoolander (2001).
His motto seems to be the one that drives the Hollywood directors whom he obviously despises: when all else fails, blow something up.
If you're going to criticise action movies for being ridiculously implausible, then you'd better make sure that the plot for your own film holds water. This one doesn't.
And it seems odd to make a spoof of war movie clichés that deals in crude racial stereotypes of the Asian characters, and revels in machismo to at least the same degree that the worst Oliver Stone movies do.
Verdict: Clever idea runs out of steam

Review of 2011: Films of the Year

What did we think of the films of 2011? Well here's our picks of the year...
So here it is, the obligatory list of 2011's finest films. No doubt we're not the only site you've visited that offers such a treat, but, as always, we've done it a little differently. Not to be swayed by the already released top 10s and award nominations, we've chosen films based on what we thought throughout the year.
This list is not one of the finest written, directed or performed pieces of cinema this year, but of films that inspired and nurtured our love of movies. We think it's been a great year for film, and here lie some examples of why we thought so. There may be some unconventional choices, but who won't leave the year behind without some guilty pleasures secreted away?
Happy New Year and may 2012 offer an even greater feast of movie magic!

Horror of the 2011 - Black Swan

There's a valid debate as to what genre Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan fits into but, by its place in this list, you can guess where we'd put it. Part psychological drama, part titillating sexual exploration, the film starts to lean towards the body-horror side of things very quickly, and produces some of the best and most visceral shocks in film this year.
It's a haunting portrayal of a woman on the verge of a breakdown, but uses all of the most effective horror techniques to take the audience down there with her. Black Swan may be about ballet, but it takes its lead from seminal dance film The Red Shoes and explores the fearful side of the art form right down to its primal heart.
Runners -up:

Comedy of 2011 - 

What can we say about    that hasn't already been written, said, and plastered all over the posters? Well, we can call it the finest comedy of 2011, and in a strong year for laughs on both sides of the pond, that's quite a thing to say. No matter what your particular taste in comedy is, you can't deny that the film outing for the four E4 lads was a great achievement.
The truth is, everyone thought it was sure to travel down the Kevin and Perry route of crass humour and over-the-top set-pieces, but it took the formula and injected some very welcome heart and charm into proceedings. Its appeal crossed generational boundaries the series might never have been able to, and it made bucket loads of cash as a result.
Read our original review here.

Runners-up: 50/50; Bridesmaids

Romantic-comedy of 2011 - Crazy, Stupid, Love

In other years, we might not have been able to name more than one superior romantic-comedy for this look-back, but 2011 spoiled us with several. The stand-our effort was Crazy, Stupid, Love which just happened to star some of the best performers around, including our no. 1 man of the year, Ryan Gosling and no. 2 lady, Emma Stone.
The film was unashamed of its roots, but delivered the possible clichés and over-worn story tropes with care and attention to making them fresh, and it paid off. CSL is a big bear-hug of a movie that uses its talented cast flawlessly to deliver laughs, tearjerking scenes and aw-shucks romance all in the space of 2 hours.
Read our original review here.

Runners-up: Friends With Benefits; Footloose

Sci-Fi of 2011 -

There was so much great sci-fi this year, but we've stayed on home ground for our pick of the best alien invasion of 2011. , from writer/director Joe Cornish, shared similarities with fellow sci-fi Super 8, what with a group of youths caught up in an alien encounter in their hometown, but this was more painfully honest about what might happen should extra-terrestrial life actually land in inner-city London.
It was made before the London riots, of course, but stands now as an example of a 'good-will-out' morality tale where the hunters become the hunted. The gang, seen at the start mugging someone on their way home, are forced to help the same victim, while also staying alive amidst a nasty alien invasion. Attack the Block marks one of the most interesting and unique ideas in movies this year, and proves we can make sci-fi just as entertaining as the US.
Runners-up: Super 8; Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Actioner of 2011 - Drive

Yes, Drive might not be as action packed as its trailer suggests, but how else would you sell such a quiet, considered, and thoughtful film to a general audience used to the hi-jinks of the Fast and Furious franchise? The truth is, Drive actually enters the action genre more and more towards the end, as Ryan Gosling's character becomes embroiled in something he didn't want to.
It's an incredibly violent film, but has a grace and beauty that is almost never present in its genre's modern form. It certainly contributed to Gosling's stellar year, as he cuts through the frame like an old-school movie star, a charm that makes Drive often feel like a film out of its proper place and time.
Read our original review here.

Runners-up: Warrior; Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Drama of 2011 -

courted much controversy this year due to its 'improper' depiction of a relationship between mother and son. We weren't supposed to discuss those parents that find themselves feeling less than undying love for their offspring, but Kevin was doing exactly that.
The controversy was obviously misguided, as the film emerged as one of the year's finest, a splendour of cinema that used Tilda Swinton at her best to inhabit the role Eva, the woman who feels an unease about her first-born, Kevin, that continues through to his adolescence. It's a difficult film, but a story worth telling nonetheless.

Read our original review here.

Runners-up: Take Shelter; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Fantasy of 2011 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

This is it, the end, finished, no more. That's a sentiment that was hammered into us between the first and second instalments of Deathly Hallows and, by the time it actually arrived, pretty much everyone was curious as to whether the film could live up to its sizeable pressures.
The Potter films were never perfect, and the debate as to which was the strongest will go on until the end of time, but Deathly Hallows finished the series with a bang worthy of its legacy, pleasing fans of the books and cinema audiences alike. Unlike the first part, this was essentially an action movie that depicted the horrors of war while never losing sight of its characters, something not seen since The Lord of the Rings.

Read our original review here.

Runners-Up: Hugo; Thor

Animation of 2011 - The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Animation shouldn't really be a category all by itself, as we're of the persuasion that a great film is a great film no matter how it was made, but it allows us to recognise more films than we would have otherwise, so here we are. Tintin was a strange case, anyway, as it was the most extensive use of motion-capture technology to hit cinema in its history, and managed to be a stellar example of family adventure as well.
It was also Spielberg's come-back movie after Indiana Jones 4, and his fingerprints could be seen all over it. The technology was great, the 3D actually managed to enhance the spectacle, and it was a joy to watch. Also, in a year devoid of any strong Pixar contender, it's a comfort that there was so much great animation to choose from.

The Artist review

Believe the hype, Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist is both utterly gorgeous and a perfect antidote to the winter blues
You can pin it on baby Jesus or mistletoe-bothering Pagans if you like, but we all know the real function of Christmas (in this hemisphere at least) is to distract us from the otherwise inevitable onslaught of depression provoked by long nights, short days, and weather so bleak we’re forced to seek solace in Iceland prawn rings and Morecambe and Wise.
This year though, a different kind of midwinter candle has arrived to light our way: Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist. It’s a film so joyous, so cheering, and so well-crafted that its end-of-December release date makes perfect sense. Here in time to buoy our spirits in the cold winter months and shepherd cinema audiences through to the New Year, The Artist does everything Christmas advertises itself as doing without making us fatter or poorer. It is both a tonic and a marvel.
The Artist reunites French director Michel Hazanavicius with actor Jean Dujardin, the lead in his OSS 117 period spy comedies. Hazanavicius’ wife, the enormously charismatic Bérénice Bejo, stars alongside Dujardin, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, and the sparkiest on-screen canine since Eddie in Frasier, Uggie the dog.
Set in 1927, The Artist tells the story of George Valentin [Dujardin], a hugely popular silent film star whose career is side lined by the advent of the talkies. Whilst Valentin’s star falls, that of fresh faced Peppy Miller [Bejo], an actress given a leg-up in her journey to success by Valentin, rises.
Thematically, The Artist is a comedy drama about romantic love, male pride, and the vagaries of fame staged against a technically masterful homage to silent cinema. Almost entirely without dialogue but with a gorgeous and descriptive score by another habitual Hazanavicius collaborator, Ludovic Bource, the film handles sound and silence so cleverly its wordlessness never feels like a gimmick.
We’re introduced to Valentin at the top of his game, the hero in a series of action capers set across Europe, as adept at stealing the limelight from his co-stars as he is at courting his public. After a chance encounter with unknown would-be actress Miller, the couple’s stories are woven together as Valentin attempts unsuccessfully to withstand the arrival of sound on film, while Miller makes her name in the talkies.
While The Artist’s plot elements are familiar – a plucky parvenu, a star down on his luck, the inexorable march of progress, a love story, a rescue – it stages them with such charm and knowing humour that the resulting film is one of pure, escapist enjoyment.
In terms of comedy, Hazanavicius uses enough irony alongside the prat falling to keep modern audiences interested without turning The Artist into a coolly detached - or worse, a twee - parody of silent cinema.
The film isn’t oblivious to its extraordinary position as a modern black and white silent film, and cleverly illustrates the threat sound represents to Valentin in a self-referentially modern nightmarish scene. It pokes gentle fun at its muteness a number of times, at one point using intertitles to show Valentin’s wife uttering the ominous words “we have to talk” and berating her husband for his unwillingness to speak.
The lead performances are joyfully good, and the love story between Dujardin and Bejo both convincing and full of old-fashioned glamour. The cleverly choreographed scene in which the pair fall in love over a series of takes is so elegantly played and directed it’s difficult for the audience not to be as utterly undone by the pair as they are by one another.
Silent film buffs aside, many of us won’t have experienced this kind of artistry outside of the beautiful storytelling seen in the speechless intros to Pixar’s Up and Wall-E. Its technical rarity is reason enough to seek it out, but that’s far from The Artist’s only attraction.
A delightful way to spend 100 minutes, and an effective antidote to winter's chill, The Artist is an old-fashioned cinematic treat. Indulge yourself.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz show off their impressive football skills - but are they real or just Hollywood make-believe?

With footie skills like these, the American team should have called on the talents of Hollywood actors  and Cameron Diaz for last weekend's game.
In a YouTube video that is burning up the internet, Cruise and Diaz show off an impressive array of moves and some very firm ball control.
The two actors, who shot the video during a break from filming their upcoming action thriller Knight And Day, are shown kicking the ball around between each other before showcasing some moves that would make Cruise's good pal David Beckham proud.
Tom Cruise
Ball control: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz show off their enviable football skills on the set of their new movie Knight And Day
Cruise is seen balancing the ball on one foot before flicking it onto his back, flipping it forward and bouncing it on his knees before kicking it to Diaz.
Not to be outdone, the actress displays her World Cup-worthy moves - catching the ball on her chest, balancing it on one foot, flicking it over her head and balancing it on her back before kicking it back to Cruise.
Cameron Diaz
Over to you: Diaz receives the ball from Cruise, balancing it on her chest before flicking it back to him
Cameron Diaz Action shot: Diaz is caught mid back kick to Cruise, but when it comes to the actors' footie skills is it all a case of too good to be true?

But it turns out that Landon Donovan need not worry too soon about being replaced on the squad - Diaz revealed that the soccer skills were all courtesy of the wonders of modern technology, namely CGI.
Tom Cruise
Daredevil:  shows off some of his motorcycle moves in Seville earlier today

'It was choreographed,' Diaz said. 'We had to act like there was a ball in between us - that we were playing around with and then we had to sell that and then they put the ball in afterwards.'
 The end result is pretty impressive - so impressive in fact that even Cruise's close friend, David Beckham was fooled.
Cruise revealed: 'I showed it to Beckham. All of his mates - they were all over there and I just kind of threw it on, and I was like, "Yeah I play a little football."
'I put it on, they were like, "WHAT!" They're looking at it, " What! What! Come on!" I went through it quickly and I was like, "What do you think?"'
If you want to enjoy Cruise and Diaz's more obvious acting skills you can check out Knight And Day when it's released in the UK on July 2.

Days of blubber: Quick-change Tom Cruise reveals his unsightly 'back fat' on hiking trip

As Katie Holmes attracts attention with her increasingly skinny frame, Tom Cruise appears to taking on his wife's extra weight.
Middle age could be catching up with the 46-year-old actor after he was spotted showing off a chubbier frame on a hiking trip in Colorado.
The Top Gun star and Holmes, 29, spent the long weekend with their family at their Telluride home in the Centennial State to celebrate America's Independence Day.
Tom Cruise
Wide around the middle: Tom Cruise with his family after a hike in Colorado

Tom Cruise
In between joining the locals for the national holiday festivities, Cruise enjoyed a hike in the hot sun around the nearby mountains.
After arriving back from his walk, a sweaty Cruise showed off his expanding girth as he stripped off by his car.
Earlier in the weekend, Cruise showed his patriotic side as he donned a cowboy hat for a day out with Holmes, daughter Suri, 2, and 13-year-old son Conner.
Wearing the traditional American headgear, the Mission: Impossible star looked like he was heading off for a day on the ranch.
Holmes seemed tired and drawn as she dressed down in jeans, black blazer and brown sandals.
Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri enjoy 4th of July. Suri wowed onlookers with an American flag headband
The Batman Begins actress' decreasing weight has attracted media attention in recent months.
Cruise was reported to have banned Holmes from discussing diets with super-skinny friend Victoria Beckham.
Instead it was left to Suri to steal the limelight as she was decked out with two American flags waving from her bright red headband.
Suri's proud patriotic display comes after Cruise recently said he was 'amazed' by his daughter.
'She likes to dance and sing, get her nails done with mom - really beautiful,' he said.
Cruise also said his daughter was emerging as a star performer and is apparently a Spice Girls fan.
Conner Cruise
Conner leads the way for Katie, Tom and Suri on the family outing


(Not so) risky business: How Tom Cruise's impressive-looking stunts are made easier than they seem

 Clinging on for dear life,   desperately holds on to a car bonnet as Cameron Diaz drives it down the street at breakneck speed... at least that's what the director wants you to think.

But this is a stunt sequence from their action-comedy Wichita, where nothing is quite what it seems.
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz
Get off my car: Cameron Diaz and an action sequence in Wichita but it's not quite this simple
Look below at our more loosely cropped picture and you will see the bigger picture.
Although Ms Diaz is behind the wheel of the black Cadillac, this is just a dummy car covering the actual low-lying vehicle.

Peering out underneath Tom's flailing legs is the real stunt driver wearing a crash helmet and all around them are lights, cameras and a host of gadgets and film tools.
Enlarge   Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz
Cruise and Diaz perform a scene from their new film Wichita. But look closer under Tom's legs and you will see the actual stunt driver who is controlling the vehicle as it swerves
Intrigued, MailOnline asked stunt co-ordinator and performer Steve Truglia, who designs and arranges shots for movies, TV shows and commercials, to cast an expert eye over our pictures from the Cruise/Diaz set in Boston.
He pinpointed the uses of each piece of equipment and the information he passed on is fascinating - not just to film geeks.
'The very reason for this elaborate set-up is to make it look real,' said Mr Truglia.
'A lot more movement can be captured using this technique.'
Traditionally in car chase scenes, the car is placed on the back of a low loader trailer. In this case a specially designed low loader has been set up with a dummy car at the front, allowing a stunt driver to control the vehicle from underneath.
tom cruise car stunt
'The advantage of this method is that cameras can be placed in a variety of angles showing the artist on the bonnet, the artist driver and the background moving past in a realistic manner as the whole mechanism drives down the road,' Mr Truglia said.

'It looks like the stunt driver is providing sideways swerving by driving the wheels which are on the road behind the low loader. This allows shots of the car apparently skidding all over the road.'
Although making up just seconds of footage, the expensive stunt scenes can take weeks to prepare and film.
'In most cases, storyboards are drawn up so that everybody knows exactly what the director wants to see,' the British stunt co-ordinator said.
'Then the stunt co-ordinator offers safe solutions to the director. Given the budget, we can achieve almost anything visually without hurting anyone.
Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise prepares to stand up next to a dog co-star as his car in driven by a stunt driver behind a film truck...

Tom Cruise
... Look closer and you'll see the dog has been replaced by a puppet as Tom Cruise clambers over the top of the moving vehicle. He is supported by wires at the back.
'Where the action is potentially dangerous for the artist, we use stunt performers to test the limits of what's safe. In this case a stunt double would have ridden the rig to determine the likelihood of the artist falling off the bonnet.
'A location manager will oversee the pre-arranged use of the public highway, often with police blocking roads off. Medics will be on standby in case of an accident.'
Only then can the cameras start to roll for real. The action can be shot anything from one to dozens of time, depending on lighting issues, dialogues glitches and background noise.
Enlarge   tom cruise on low loader
The low loader would travel up to 60mph in a straight line or 30mph during swerves, according to expert stunt co-ordinator Steve Truglia
Although it looks risky, Tom Cruise has very little chance of falling off the car. He would be secured to the vehicle by wires and a harness, which is digitally removed in post production.
'For this kind of shot I would probably set a maximum of 30mph with swerving and up to 60 driving in a straight line on a completely locked off road,' Mr Truglia said.
'I would insist on safety wires. I notice that in one picture the bonnet seems to have some stuck on grippy patches to reduce Tom's sideways movement.'
A lot of clever editing follows with cuts between close-ups showing the artists, wider shots of an actual car with stunt doubles on the bonnet and the action in the context of the street.
'It is usually very expensive to create stunt shots,' Mr Truglia said.
'You have the specialist building of dummy cars, special effects people, stunt people, and the extra time taken to do something like this whilst keeping everybody safe.
'It is a huge team effort to make a great movie and everyone plays their part.'
Steve Truglia specialises in designing and arranging stunt action sequences on any scale. For more information visit his website www.prostunts.net
But whoever said Tom doesn't take risks...
Far from shirking danger duties, Tom Cruise has had his fair share of on-set thrills.
In Mission: Impossible II, for example, he insisted on doing his own stunts on motorbikes and cars - and one memorable 'knife-on-eyeball' sequence.
The scene involved a fight between him (as Ethan Hunt) and the villain Sean Ambrose, played by Dougray Scott. 
Watch out: That's Cruise's actual eye very near a real knife
Don't look now: Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) (L)  tussles with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) (R)
Cruise insisted that a real knife be used - and that it stop precisely one quarter of an inch from his eyeball, against the wishes of director John Woo.
The weapon itself was connected to a wire that was carefully measured to achieve the effect.
Now that's what we call risky business.

Stunt-weary Tom Cruise collapses into the arms of Cameron Diaz

There's many a man would swap places with  as he snuggles up to Cameron Diaz.
The star returned to the set of Knight And Day today in Long Beach, California, and fell straight into the arms of his glamorous co-star.
The 47-year-old barely had time to catch his breath after filming some action scenes for the movie The Hardy Men than he was back filming again with Diaz.
Scroll down for the Knight and Day trailer...
Tom Cruise
Hold me:  collapses into Cameron Diaz's arms after filming some stunt scenes for their upcoming film Knight and Day in California yesterday
The pair were back to work action comedy Knight And Day, which is released in July.
Cruise plays a secret agent who goes on a blind date with unlucky-in-love Cameron Diaz and ends up forcing her to help him protect a powerful battery that holds the key to an infinite power source.
The couple filmed some scenes for the movie in Seville in Spain in early December but took a break for Christmas and New Year.
Tom Cruise
Sprinting: Cruise pounds the boards of a wooden jetty as he films an action scene

Tom Cruise
Anything you can do: Cameron Diaz shows Cruise she wants in on the action too

Last week, Diaz, 37, and Cruise were seen pitching in with other Hollywood stars to take pledges during a fundraising telethon to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

But this week they were back to work, and staying on their native shores, they were seen filming on a fishing jetty, with Cruise running up and down before appearing to collapse in Diaz's arms.
He was also seen warming up by doing some press-ups on the wooden jetty before filming began.

Tom Cruise
Drop and give me twenty: Tom limbers up for his action scenes with some press-ups on the jetty

Tom Cruise
Taking a break: Diaz and Cruise share a joke as they rest in between scenes
And there was no lying around for her as she also got stuck into the action and was filmed running after Cruise in a fitted white shirt, blue skinny jeans and long brown boots.

And while her husband was sprinting up and down wooden piers in the Californian sun, Katie Holmes was braving the snow in Utah at the Sundance Film festival.
Tom Cruise
Action Man: Cruise practising a stunt for The Hardy Men earlier this week
The actress was snapped sipping from a coffee amid a snowfall at the festival where she is promoting two of her upcoming films.
Yesterday she attended the premiere of 'The Romantics', in which she co-stars with Transformers star Josh Duhamel, and the day before she dressed down for the first screening of her other film 'The Extra Man', which also stars Kevin Kline.
Katie Holmes
Double-bill: Katie Holmes attends the Sundance Film Festival this week to promote two of her upcoming films



Risky business: Tom Cruise pushes himself to the limit with another daredevil stunt

This is  proving yet again that when it comes to stunts no mission is impossible.
As these pictures from the set of his latest film, The Hardy Men, show, while Cruise at 5ft 7' may be short in stature he never comes up short when it comes to daredevilry.
The film is based on Edward Stratemeyer's the Hardy Boys books, about two teenage brothers who become amateur detectives.
Tom Cruise
Death-defying:  performs a stunt on the Los Angeles set for The Hardy Men
Tom Cruise
Hold on tight: The actor grips onto a what appears to be a sailing mast
Cruise and Ben Stiller play grown-up versions of the Hardy brothers and the film shows Cruise's character involved in all manner of high jinks.
Ever since his debut in the Mission Impossible series as Ethan Hunt in Brian de Palma's 1996 hit, Cruise has shown an appetite for the stunt work.
One of the most memorable was the infamous knife to eyeball scene in Mission Impossible 2.
Tom Cruise
In full swing: The 47-year-old prefers to do his own stunt work rather than calling in a double
Cruise insisted on not only doing the stunt himself but also on the use of a real knife in the scene, much to director John Woo's chagrin.
And despite the rumours that he must now seek the permission of his wife Katie Holmes before agreeing to stunt work Cruise, even at the grand old age of 47, appears to be having less and less need for a stunt double.
In the past year pictures of Cruise in all sorts of stunt capers have surfaced.
We saw him leaping rooftops in Vienna for Knight and Day, which is due for release later this year
Cameron Diaz, who also appears him in the film, expressed praise for her co-star's appetite for stunts after a scene in which Cruise is seen jumped from a speeding car for the same film.
Tom Cruise All in a day's work: Tom was all smiles after performing the tricky maneuver