Jan 032011
 

I’m gonna be honest – this year-ender is really just the 5 best movies of the year, and then 5 more I kinda liked. While there were at least 3 really really great movies to come out this year, I just couldn’t connect with the majority of box-office fodder in anno domini 2010: the year we were supposed to have made contact. Lame. As far as caveats go, I’ll get mine outta the way: I have not yet seen The King’s Speech with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, nor have I seen the Coens’ True Grit or even Piranha 3-D – not to mention Micmacs: the new film from my favorite foreign director Jean-Pierre Jeunet . So when my 2010 is finally in the books, the list may have a slightly different look. Still, only 1 flick this year edged its way into my personal 22-movie top 10 list. So, with only slightly more further ado, here is my top 10 of Oh-Ten:

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10 – Predators

I put this movie off, and then put it off a little more until I found it for 10 bucks on blu at Best Buy. I just keep getting burned by the Alien / Predator franchises, going back to the awesome yet terrible Predator 2 with Danny Freaking Glover (only ever more out of place in Saw). And while I‚Äôm starting to like Alice Braga (I Am Legend, Repo Men), I hadn‚Äôt been sold on Adrien Brody as ‚ÄúAction Hero.‚Äù But Brody‚Äôs stock miraculously just keeps going up. Even after Splice! And while I‚Äôm still not sold that Topher Grace can be a movie-star, Larry Fishburne‚Äôs unexpected character taken with Predator-puppies and further insights into the Predator sub-cultures make this one of the best recent space-horror flicks. Check out James’ review.

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09 – The Joneses

It‚Äôs just not an official top ten list unless some douchey movie reviewer (played in this case by Yours Truly) has an unheard-of indie flick starring a few names slumming it in the anti-establishment genre of anti-capitalist-capitalism. Only indie movies can get away with charging people 8 bucks a ticket for 90 minutes of anti-consumerism. Go figure. Still, the aforementioned slummers are David ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Call Me Mulder‚Äù Duchovny, Demi Moore, and cutie up-n-comer Amber Heard. Along with some other dude, they play a fictionally fictitious family set into an affluent neighborhood by an advertising firm in order to be living shills for whatever merchandise is on the block. It‚Äôs a kind of black comedy illustrating the perils of marketplace one-up-manship. Check out Desiree’s review.

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08 – The Wolfman

I had it on pretty good authority at the time this one came out (back in February ‚Äì crazy I know, it feels like it was Feb 09) that Benicio del Toro sucked, and the movie was terrible. So I waited til my parents bought it on blu (if Anthony Hopkins is in it, my mom really can‚Äôt avoid it) to check it out, and I have to say, I was really really surprised. And thus are we presented with a common argument ‚Äì do we really see movies as they are, or do we see them through the prism of what others have said about them? I like to think that if I‚Äôd seen this in the theater, I still would‚Äôve loved it. but, spending 7 months thinking it was terrible ‚Ķ and then seeing it wasn‚Äôt, is it really good? Or just passable? Either way, Emily Blunt as the damsel in distress, Hopkins as a disgruntled, musket-toting fogey and Benny of the Bull as a raging lunar beastie make for perfectly awesome traditional gothic horror. Check out Dustin’s review.

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07 – Resident Evil: Afterlife

If you’ve been paying attention to the goings on here at the Breach, you will have noticed that this movie has sorta become the whipping boy of all that is wrong with movies. But I’m done coming to the defense of this ridiculous movie. There is no defending this movie. If you dig action that’s been CG’ed to hell and back, if you’re not tired of the tough guy grabbing his sun-glasses flying through the air and cooly putting them back on his face, and if you’re not one of the lucky few who doesn’t find Ali Larter totally cute, this is an awesome movie. It’s the best use of 3-D since Avatar, and features the second best fight scene of the year (Ali and Milla in a prison shower, with the giant-ass sledge-hammer wielding zombie demon monster – tune in later for the first best). Paul W.S. Anderson is at his best here (which, admittedly, isn’t exactly Scorcese), and the crazy action of RE4 revels in its silliness and because of that, becomes far more believable than over-the-top silliness that takes itself way too seriously as in Salt or Prince of Persia.

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This seems as good a time as any for a change-up. I mentioned before that 2010, from my perspective, was a hard year for movies. Part of that was the lack of jaw-droppers, but the other part is the level of excitement around a few movies that just didn’t deliver (and while I haven’t seen it yet, I’m gathering that Tron Legacy falls into that category). So I’ll take a few words to talk about my 2 major disappointments of the year.

Disappointment #1: Repo Men

I didn’t know what to expect from this film. I bought the book before the movie came out with the intention of writing a comparative review. I was eager for it – the book was pretty cool, the story of organ-repossession was brutal and inventive and I’m a big fan of Jude Law and Forrest Wittaker. In fact, the movie was pretty good. But I’m a believer in strong endings. A great ending can turn a passable movie into a good movie and a good movie into a great movie. But bad endings can reduce brilliant movies to garbage. And that’s how this one hit me. The climax of the film with Law and Alice Braga playing a kind of real-life-board-game version of Operation was destined to be my favorite movie scene of 2010 (it might actually still rank as my second favorite). But, because of the ending which I deem “unfair” ripped it from my heart, and I left the theater defeated. Check out my review.

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Disappointment #2:

Never Let Me Go

Based on the novel of the same name by the Japanese-born British Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go joins the list of movies suffering from Benjamin-Button Syndrome (where everything about a movie is good, but the movie, for whatever reason just isn’t that good – see also Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter (which actually might not qualify since the script is awful) and Johnny Depp’s Public Enemies). Carey Mulligan leads Keira Knightly and Andrew Garfield (who I’m convinced will be a major star – especially after his Spider-Man comes to theaters on July 4th weekend in 2012) through a sci-fi drama set in a alternate-historied Great Britain that seemingly refuses to acknowledge the freedoms and privileges to which the three main characters feel entitled. And while I don’t believe Carey Mulligan is ready to be a leading lady, she’s decent enough to carry off the plot and all that director Mark Romanek asked of her. And Knightly is pretty good. And Andrew Garfield is good. And the story is good. And Alex Garland’s script is great. …but… I didn’t like it… why? Couldn’t say. This has tear-jerker written all over (for reasons I refuse to spoil here), but when the big emotional plot points unfold, I was left sitting in the theater dry-eyed and thinking : “Yup. That’s ok. Is this Act 3 yet?”

Back to the countdown!

06 – Inception

I really need more than a hundred and fifty words to get at all my problems with this movie. But why focus on the negative? The major flaw of the film as I can see it is that the scope of the film is enormous, and the special effects rise to the occasion, but the scope of the¬†story and plot does not rise to that same level. But of course, there‚Äôs great stuff going on. It‚Äôs why this movie is sure to be on most top 10 film lists for 2010. Apart from the dudely-walking Ellen Page, the acting is great ‚Äì in fact, don‚Äôt even pay attention to diCaprio (with his angry-face on auto-pilot); take your time to watch the performances of superstar in waiting Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the beautiful and ever-impressive Marion Cotillard. Chris Nolan‚Äôs direction style is similar to Steven Spielberg‚Äôs: start with a good premise, and get the best actors you can find. So, while there might be a few major plot-holes, the action is beautiful, and slo-mo has never (and I seriously, literally and honestly¬†mean “never”) been done any better. Add to that the Rene Magritte-style visuals, and Nolan turns in another good‚Äôn‚Äô. Check out Dustin’s review.

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05 – Machete

I’m not sure if it’s an indictment of how off this year was for blockbusters, or if it’s an indictment of my actual taste that this movie makes my top 5. Either way, watching Machete was probably the most fun I had in a movie theater all year. It’s just awesome seeing a career tough-guy in Danny Trejo, with almost 200 film credits to his name, finally getting his shot at starring in a high-profile Hollywood blockbuster. So what if it’s exploitation! He’s leading a cast that includes Hollywood stalwarts like DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson and Steven Freaking Seagal, and I say that’s a big deal. So, spouting its instant classic one-liners and eviscerating its way through an army of amoral baddies, Machete gets on the list for just giving me my friggin’ money’s worth. So while I won’t go so far as to say it’s a “better” movie than Inception or Wolfman, I sure as hell liked it more.

04 – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Another movie that had me totally psyched to give someone my money! And another movie where I was dead set on reading the books first. And HOLY GOD. If you haven’t read these 6 little graphic novel masterpieces, get, the hell, on it. Each one takes about an hour of your time, and you don’t even need to shell out the cash. Get yourself a nice Iced-White-Mocha and sit at your local Borders til you’re done. And sure, maybe Michael Cera was mis-cast for Scott Pilgrim – no biggee. While Cera’s Scott is definitely not Bryon O’Malley’s Scott, the film works as a film, and even though it’s a comic book adaptation, it’s instantly the best video-game movie ever made. And the rest of the casting (including Kieran Culkin as Wallace, Ellen Wong as Knives, Jason Schwartzman as Gideon, Chris Evans as Lucas Lee and of course I could go through the whole damn list of characters) is genius, the jokes are quick, the action is plenty and Mary Elizabeth Winstead cutes it up all over the place. And Boom. As promised, you are given your best fight scene of the year. While I very geekly think most of the fights work better in graphic novel format, the big climactic battle between Scott and Gideon had me cheering my ass off. Check out the cast and crew Q&A.

03 – Black Swan

Black Swan makes #3 for exactly the opposite reason Machete made #5. I didn’t really connect with this film, but it’s just so damn good, I cannot ignore it. The Oscar chatter is all over this film for good reason – Natalie Portman and company act their aces off. While I’ve always been on her bandwagon (at least in my dreams), I’d stopped thinking she would ever make another movie as great as Luc Besson’s Leon (a.k.a. The Professional), but she takes this movie over. She’s shy and demure and a doormat, and still owns every single scene. And Darren Aronofsky (director of The Wrestler as well as my favorite movie ever: The Fountain) with his deft camera-work and incredible lighting makes the chemistry amazing between the four major characters despite all the conflict. While I wasn’t a fan of Wynona Rider’s part in the drama, the direction throughout is flawless (save for maybe an overuse of CG), and each actor has obviously had the best brought out of them. I’m sure by now you’ve heard that this is a dark ballet movie, so I won’t go over the plot except to say that the ballet centerpiece is Swan Lake, and the tone is set through intense close-ups, horrific bodily abuse and the immortal music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky (writer of the ballet. Also the Nutcracker and the 1812 Overture. Yep. That Tchaikovsky). I love ballet, and while I won’t say that I was Benjamin-Buttoned by Black Swan, it still wasn’t all I was hoping for. So while I probably won’t add it to my blu-ray library, I’m still cheering for Portman and Aronofsky for making this dark psychodrama and for the praise they are receiving for it.

02 – 127 Hours

Have I mentioned before that Danny Boyle is a genius? This is that movie about the dude who cuts his arm off. (and that’s as much a spoiler as was saying that the Titanic sank) Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy adapted Aron Ralston’s book Between a Rock and a Hard Place about Ralston’s experience of being pinned by a small boulder while rock-climbing in Utah and the subsequent self-amputation he performed to save his own life. So of course, going in, it’s with the thought of “This is that movie about the dude who cuts his arm off.” But that’s like saying Gone With the Wind is “That movie about that chick who loses her house.” Ok, so maybe this isn’t Gone With the Wind. But if you’re late to the dance on this James Franco guy, welcome to the party. Danny Boyle does what works for him, and if Oliver Stone is going to insist on waging war on American politics, Danny Boyle will suit me just fine.

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01 – Kick-Ass

A runaway. Easily the best movie of the year, and Matthew Vaughn is getting serious dude. Even though Layer Cake was a hit in England (for whatever reason), after America refused to pay any attention to Stardust in 2007, I was afraid Vaughn would get stuck in BBC hell and maybe spend his career relegated to directing Doctor Who episodes. But then he went and discovered some kid named Aaron Johnson, got Chloe Grace-Moretz to say ‚Äúcunt,‚Äù changed McLovin‚Äôs name back to Chris Mintz-Plasse, let Nic Cage remember he‚Äôs a damn good actor and let Mark Strong play the badguy…again. ¬†Matthew Vaughn and his red-headed siren of a co-writer Jane Goldman took Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.‚Äôs ultra-violent (and unimpressive, hate if you wanna) graphic novel about a normal kid turned superpowerless superhero and an ex-cop‚Äôs revenge crusade and made a compelling, hilarious drama about the consequences of our actions and the willingness to personally accept responsibility for making a change where there needs to be a change. As a bonus, you get Nic Cage as he delivers the best line of the year with, ‚ÄúSwitch to Kryptoniiiiiite!‚Äù and the second best line of the year in, ‚ÄúGo to Robiiiiiiin‚Äôs Reveeeeeeeeeeenge!‚Äù I measure movies by how they make me feel. My favorites always make me feel a little sad and a little happy, or a little amazed and a little afraid, and movies like this one do it the best. Check out Dustin’s SXSW review.

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That’s all I’ve got for 2010 movies. I’ll be back for a bit to say goodbye to 2010’s best songs, and then I’ll go back to my Sleeper Cellish hole in the ground, and we’ll put the screws to 2011.

Recent posts by Zack

  • James

    I didn’t see everything on this list but comments are for commenting.

    10 – Agree on all points, especially with the expansion of the Predator culture without fucking it up.

    08 – I wish I’d seen this. The very reason you didn’t see it until recently is the same reason I didn’t. You bring up a great point about other people’s opinions influencing how/if we watch movies…

    09 Рand yet, ಠ_ಠ

    06 – There was too much sexy going on for me to have it this far down my list, plot holes be damned. The fact that this movie made half the sense it did is itself, an accomplishment. But I could see that if you weren’t totally mowed over by the style how this would be where it is on your list.

    05 РTío!

    04 – :D

    01 – It’s not my top pick but again, right on all points. This was extremely better than it had any business being.

  • Anonymous

    Ha, the only ones I’ve seen are Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass. I’m glad you mentioned Cera being mis-cast. I think I kinda flipped out about that right after seeing the movie (and honestly, I thought Culkin was a bit mis-cast as well, though not nearly to the same extent), but overall it was still highly enjoyable — maybe the best I saw this year. Kick-Ass disturbed me so profoundly that I feel like I couldn’t fully analyze it at the time. And I don’t think I want to rewatch. But maybe its effect on me is a mark of its greatness. Still not sure Nic Cage is a good actor. You should ago through all the movies he’s been in to see if it’s in fact the good acting that’s a fluke. Look, I just suggested a Breach post!

  • http://www.mediabreach.com Adam

    Interesting list. I like alot of the movies you mentioned, some not so much.

    I think that Resident Evil should’ve been #1 though.

  • http://www.mediabreach.com Dustin

    Glad to see 127 Hours on here, dude. I still need to see The Joneses but I really have to be in the right mood for flicks like that :)