Out of all the hours logged watching movies in 2010, the following ten movies are the ones I felt were the best overall. I rated them not just on the quality of filmmaking, acting, etc., but also on the “rewatchability factor,” because let’s face it, some movies are really good, but end up being something you’ll never want to watch again (Million Dollar Baby, anyone?).
At the end of the day I think a great movie retains the total package and part of that is whether or not you’d ever watch it again, recommend it to friends, or own it on video. With that being said, here is the list, followed promptly by what I’m looking forward to the most in 2011. Enjoy!
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – This is the only movie I saw twice in theaters and have watched multiple times on blu ray. An inventive, clever and fun comic-book adaptation with the typical whizz-bang direction of Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), Pilgrim exemplifies kick ass filmmaking. Michael Cera plays Pilgrim with his usual aloof wit and the rest of the supporting cast is on par. Audiences steered clear and it’s likely this will become a cult staple (and rightfully so). If you missed it, try again. Without a doubt, my favorite film of 2010.
2. Inception – Christopher Nolan’s epic dreamscape vision was the first film I saw in 2010 that really challenged me. Being challenged in a movie isn’t always a good thing, but with Inception it is. I thought nonstop about the film after seeing it and debated it with friends continuously. Although it loses a little bit of the anxiousness on a second viewing it is no less thrilling and compelling. DiCaprio and co. deliver solid performances and composer Hans Zimmer plucks your nerves with every note of his hair-raising score. Nolan has proven that he is a director with vision and weaves his stories as if playing a game of chess with the audience, the master player, one step ahead of your every move.
3. True Grit – I didn’t expect I’d like this as much as I did. I enjoy westerns, but they aren’t my favorite genre. The Coen Brothers tackle the original Portis novel with their usual quirk, zeal, and epic scope, bringing a much-beloved classic to life in renewed (and enlightened) fashion. The acting, especially by Jeff Bridges, is top notch, elevating an effective, yet lackluster original film to an entirely new standard. This is worth watching again just to see Bridges bellow out his Rooster Cogburn with the force of an actor who knows what he’s doing and how to do it well.
4. Unstoppable – Tony Scott returns to his wider audience appeal by toning down his overzealous style a notch and delivering a standard, high-concept film based on (supposed) actual events. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are well-suited together as the young and old train conductors who have to work together to stop a runaway train. It’s fast, loud, energetic, and, most importantly, a great ride. It’s a rollercoaster on film, leaving you with that same amped-up feeling you get when stepping off the ride. “Let’s go again!” Indeed.
5. Black Swan – Slow, methodical, creepy, eerie, and erotic. Natalie Portman is a ballerina struggling with the role of a lifetime and watching her unravel into a state of psychotic obsession is perfectly in line with the journey of her character in the role she is playing as both the white/black swan. Director Darren Aronofsky continues his reign as an artful, visionary filmmaker, once again providing the audience with great performances, stunning visuals, and powerful themes that will provoke, titillate, and horrify all at once.
6. The Social Network – A friend sent me the script for this long before I saw the film and I was amazed by it. Such an intricate work by Aaron Sorkin and one which I knew would be fully realized by director David Fincher. Add in a pitch perfect performance by Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the (disputed) founder of Facebook and the great supporting cast of Andrew Garfield, et all, the pulse-pounding score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and there is no question as to why the film has garnered so many accolades. It’s not only an entertaining film, but an in-depth look at how we communicate in modern society and how it continues to evolve and affect our lives.
7. Restrepo – Okay, so I said I wanted to make this list about all elements, including rewatchability. This is my one exception, but with a more intricate reason. This is the most powerful and honest modern war film/documentary I’ve seen. It does not narrate what you should be thinking/feeling, makes no political statement, and puts you right smack dab in the middle of a 15-month deployment with paratroopers from the 173rd in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. It’s harsh, brutal, heartbreaking, anxious, frustrating, and seeping with reality. Watching this again, given my own combat experience, will be a challenge. But you’ll never forget the first time, just as you’ll never forget the real thing.
8. The A-Team – An unlikely choice, sure. However, this underappreciated yarn was an absolute blast, and sometimes that’s just what the movie doctor ordered. I don’t need socio-political-psychological themes beaten over my head or injected in my veins with every movie I watch. Sometimes I just want to see some explosions, stunts, macho quips, cool-guy camaraderie, and let the celluloid junk food seep into my brain. The A-Team is near perfectly cast with a non-obtrusive storyline and plenty of the aforementioned assets to go around. It will never win an award and there will never be a sequel, so sit back and enjoy it for what it is, which is a hell of a lot of fun.
9. The Town – Ben Affleck steps out of his acting rut and into his director’s hot streak by knocking it out of Fenway with this old-fashioned heist film. Solid performances by Affleck and (especially) Jeremy Renner, as well as Jon Hamm as a the not-so-by-the-book FBI agent round out a high stakes cat and mouse thriller that delivers on the action, suspense, and human drama set in the underbelly of Boston. What elevates The Town above other heist films is the unpredictable, yet believable actions of its characters, which will have you on the edge of your seat to the very end.
10. Tron: Legacy – Although I haven’t posted a larger review for this yet, it just made the cut. I still have yet to see the original Tron, but the sequel merits acknowledgement. First off, Jeff Bridges continues his hot streak, returning as Kevin Flynn, a game developer who gets trapped in his own game. His son, Sam, played by relative newcomer Garrett Hedlund, finds his way into the Tron universe and is thrust into the environment with little time to adjust. It’s fast paced eye-candy through and through, and the cast plays it convincingly enough while disbelief hovers nearby. Hedlund’s Sam is full of spirit and tenacity, creating a heroic persona we can root for and Olivia Wilde is simply a marvel to look at in every single frame she appears. Add in Daft Punks electrifying score with the amazing visuals and you’re in for a wildly inventive, if not somewhat ridiculous, ride.
10 Movies for 2011
2011 is shaping up to be one hell of a year for movies. I don’t say that every year either. 2010 was lackluster when it came to the lineup. I was less than inspired. Fortunately, Hollywood was able to pluck a few gems out of the manure. Below are the top ten films I’m looking forward to in 2011. Again, you should enjoy this. If not, I don’t know what to tell you.
1. Captain America – Joe Johnston is helming the adaptation of the famed Marvel icon and my fingers are crossed, my prayers being sent, and hopes soaring for a solid, entertaining, and accurate portrayal of Steve Rogers, the super solder of WW2 who eventually goes on to lead the Avengers and become the glue of the Marvel universe. Chris Evans is playing the star-spangled hero, with Hugo Weaving stepping in as The Red Skull. Expect the first trailer during the Super Bowl.
2. Thor – Yet another Marvel Comics adaptation, this time under the helm of thespian director Kenneth Branagh. Chris Hemsworth steps into the role of the God of Thunder, who is banished to earth because of his insolent behavior by his father, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins. With a number of classic villains making appearances, including Loki, The Destroyer, and the Frost Giants, I expect to see some serious ground-shattering action. If the five-minute long sizzle reel from comic con is any indication, this should be another solid entry for Marvel and a hugely entertaining romp to boot.
3. Your Highness – I am a Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down) fan. Some people aren’t. I think he’s comedic gold, so this raunchy comedy, disguised as a fantasy action film, looks absolutely hysterical to me. Director David Gordon Green brings back his Pineapple Express alum James Franco to team up with McBride in a quest to save Franco’s would-be bride, played by Zooey Deschanel. Along the way they pick up a beautiful warrior, played by Natalie Portman, who looks to be the resident bad ass of the film. This is a film that shouldn’t have been made. Cross-pollinated genres rarely work, but the talent involved are a force to be reckoned with. Check out the red-band trailer to see if it’s for you. If it’s not, we would probably never be very good friends.
4. Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol – Animation director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) takes on the fourth installment of the series and sees Tom Cruise reprising his role as super spy Ethan Hunt, along with new recruits Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Josh Holloway. Plot details are thin, but with the cast and crew involved, especially director Bird, I expect this will continue the standard set by J.J. Abrams with the last installment. I’ve enjoyed the shit out of the series so far, so this definitely puts my gears in motion.
5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Yeah, the last one sucked, even if director Michael Bay’s visuals still rocked the house. We usually don’t expect much story from Bay, relying mostly on visuals and the weight of the cast, but Revenge of the Fallen fell flat on the back up. Returning star Shia LeBouf and Bay have reassured (continuously) that the third installment (shot in 3D, btw) is more focused on story than mayhem. Sarcastically, I have no doubt. At any rate, I am a Michael Bay fan, even at his worst (The Island) and will give them the benefit of the doubt. The teaser looks promising, so we’ll see. Also, no Megan Fox, having been replaced by a Victoria’s Secret model. Now, that’s putting story first!
6. Suckerpunch – Ever since 300, director Zack Snyder has set a precedence and style that has been both his greatest strength and his Achilles heel. The most common complaint I hear about his work since 300 is the overuse of the speed up/slow down shots and hyperactive visuals. It was impossible to please just about anyone with Watchmen, but that’s a whole other bag to tackle. However, with Suckerpunch, Snyder looks to be making a movie strictly out of his bag of tricks, which for me isn’t a bad thing. However, for his critics, it’s more of the same and probably too much of it. If you dig the style and visual *ahem* punch, then you’ll likely find this irresistible. Interesting note: Snyder is next directing a new Superman film.
7. Green Lantern – Ah, let the big-budget superheroes spill from Hollywood’s glass. Expect more of the same as long as the properties continue to haul in money by the dump truck load. Ryan Reynolds takes on the role of Hal Jordan, a pilot who is bestowed a ring that transforms him into the superhero Green Lantern, a galactic protector and part of the much larger Green Lantern Corps. Along the way he’ll learn to wield his newfound power and have sex with Blake Lively, all while fighting alongside/against fellow characters Sinestro (Mark Strong), Parallax, and Hector Hammond. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) has the chops to pull this off, however the first trailer is a bit underwhelming and my greatest fear is that we’ll get Ryan Reynolds as Ryan Reynolds and not as Hal Jordan, upping the cheese factor to a distracting level.
8. Super 8 – Okay, so I’m not trying to catch my breath with excitement for this one, but I am absolutely a J.J. Abrams fan and he is not one to disappoint. Very little is known beyond the teaser trailer, although it looks to involve some aliens, some mass carnage, military intervention, and a bunch of other sci-fi themes. Abrams has stated that he wanted to make a film that harkens back in spirit to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. A tough position to attain, no doubt, but Abrams has my vote of confidence.
9. Hangover 2 – Some people just don’t get the first Hangover. They don’t think it’s that funny, think it’s overrated, or think it plain sucks. Those people suck. Okay, well, their opinion sucks. I love the first Hangover. I laughed continuously and was along for the ride from frame one. Director Todd Phillips, who has crafted a comedic style all his own, which can be described as juvenile and prankster-esque, is onboard with the sequel which finds our familiar partygoers in Thailand for Stu’s bachelor party. I don’t think anymore even needs to be said. Hijinks will, of course, ensue, and hopefully the laughs will play as large, if not larger, than their first trip.
10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – The first book in the popular Millennium trilogy by the late author Stieg Larsson was already adapted once in 2009 by Swedish filmmakers with much success. I recently watched it on Netflix streaming and was amazed. It has prompted me to start reading the book and prepare for the new adaptation by director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network). Rooney Mara takes on the role of Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker who is paired with a journalist (Daniel Craig) to investigate the possible murder of a woman who has been missing for 40 years. The story is so much more intricate and involving, with some seriously intense scenes, which I’ve never seen in a film before. If Fincher and co. remain true to the source material there is little doubt that this film will be one to be reckoned with and likely will inspire a wave of Lisbeth Salander fangirls all over the United States. Not so sure if that’s a good thing, given the details of her character, but man, it would definitely toughen some chicks up. Oh, added bonus, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who both worked on The Social Network score for Fincher, will be back for this one. Very, very nice.
Well, that wraps it up for now. There are a lot more films coming out in 2011 that look promising, but these are the ones that stick out for me. As production advances on many of the projects currently in pre/production and promotional material, trailers, etc., are released anticipation will likely grow for the films I haven’t mentioned here. Either way, I feel good about 2011 as far as movies go. Do your best not to see any Adam Sandler movies. Even if Brooklyn Decker looks amazing in his new one. It’s not worth it. That’s what Netflix is for.
Any films not on this list that you’re starving for? Let’s hear ‘em!
Keep swimmin’ in the awesomesauce. Tell your friends and neighbors. See you soon.