Stolen from Facebook:
As the end of the year rapidly approaches, and I take in what is probably my last theatrical flick of the year, thoughts turn to the past 12 months of movies, both at home and in a darkened room with a 40 foot screen and a couple of hundred strangers. It wasn’t a ‘quote’ “GREAT” year for movies, but it was certainly a fun one. 2010 was undoubtedly the “summer of action”, with a more concentrated level of asskicking than just about any other year since the 1980s, and science fiction got a little love as well. The year won’t go down in history or anything, but the ratio of good:garbge was definitely skewed to the “good” side.
One of the joys of being a writer for DVDVerdict is the fact that it does give some small measure of legitimacy to an opinion. The fact that someone felt my writing was strong enough to give me an output, and the opportunity to comment or critique some pretty high profile titles, is both an honor and a privilege, no matter how small a measure of legitimacy it actually affords. There another luxury afforded as well; I needn’t concern myself with my peers, and when I do sit down and craft a top 10 list of my favorite films of 2010, in purely pretentious fashion, I needn’t concern myself with tarnishing said minute legitimacy by listing movies like “Legend of the Guardians”. Yes, these are my favorite films of 2010, in numerical order, they may change over time, some films may be added, others may disappear, but as 2010 enters its twilight hours – these are the flicks I saw over the last 11 and 7/8th months that I felt the most joy while witnessing.
10- The Expendables – So much has been said of ‘Stallone and Friends’ that it probably easily grabs the “most hype” of 2010 award. Sure, the plot, something about a rogue CIA agent setting up shop on some fictional South American Island Republic only to be kicked the hell out by Stallone’s small time band of Private Military Contractors, makes about as much sense as Stallone’s Mom’s psychic powers, but damn it was a ton of fun. ‘The Expendables’ is a total throwback that lacks the smug self-awareness of other recent efforts (Black Dynamite was a riot and all, but hardly authentic). No, ‘The Expendables’ doesn’t smile and wave, or wink with tongue in cheek at ‘80s action flicks, it truly believes in its heart-of-hearts that this is 1987. It also brings the carnage in remarkable fashion, right down to a 30 minute final act battle royale that uses every ounce of its dream team stunt casting for maximum effect.
9- The Losers – If ‘The Expendables’ is the ultimate glimpse at action’s past, then ‘The Losers’ is a solid look at the present and future. It features all of the modern action trimmings, including corrupt agents and black-ops specialists, and it relies whole heartedly on the “men on a mission” scenario, but it also has a tight, relatively intelligent script (“Snukes” McGuffin notwithstanding) and a central cast that devours the material with aplomb. Even with a watered-down PG-13 rating, ‘The Losers’ handles the action extremely well, drips with style, and shines on the fact that it’s truly an ensemble picture with great performances from all involved (and one awesome villain in Jason Patric). The caper side of the flick is also clever and well implemented; the whole thing feels like ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ crossed with ‘The A-Team’. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get that sequel they setup in the closing moments.
8- The Wolfman – It’s been a while since I’ve payed any credence to ‘Horror’ as a genre. That’s not to say that I feel the genre is dead, but the sheer wealth of torture-porn, slasher homage and zombie crapola out there has made the whole “scary movie” scene rather stagnant. ‘The Wolfman’, with all of its stuffy gothic atmosphere and its morbid seriousness is like a breath of fresh air. As a collective whole, the cast is awesome, and the direction and effects-work is as top drawer as it gets. The movie looks stunning, and takes itself seriously enough to be taken seriously in return. It makes an incredible companion piece to Frances Ford Coppola’s early ‘90s take on ‘Dracula’.
7- The Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – Yes, this is a PG rated animated film from the director of ‘300’ and ‘The Watchmen’, and yes, it features talking owls. What I love about Zack Snyder’s take is that every ounce of his visual flair has made the transition intact, and beyond that, ‘The Legend of the Guardians’ is a different sort of animated beast. Like some of the best output from the house of mouse, or Don Bluth’s early ‘80s material, ‘Legend of the Guardians’ goes to some mighty dark places, and there’s no shortage of the same sort of violence and mature themes that shaped films like ‘The Black Cauldron’ ‘ The Dark Crystal’ or ‘The Secret of NIMH’ into the destroyers of fragile Child psyches that they are today. It’s so refreshing to find a children’s flick that doesn’t rely on potty humor, gimmicky voices, or garish colors, and instead falls back on the tale that it tells. It’s great to see a gorgeously animated film that isn’t tailored at the genetic level to sell happy meal toys, and above all else, armies of Owls fighting with 9-inch long metal blades on their talons are pretty damn bad ass. Imagine if a filmmaker like Ridley Scott or James Cameron had the sheer audacity to try something like this as early in their careers as Snyder did.
6- Centurion – For sheer rugged manly-manliness, ‘Centurion’ makes ‘The Expendables’ look like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Neil Marshall’s period pseudo-epic combines one part ‘Gladiator’ with one part ‘First Blood’. This is an action packed “Boy’s Own” adventure yarn about the Roman 9th Legion; a force that goes from 3000 strong to 7 cold and weary soldiers trying desperately to get back to Roman lines while being hunted through Dark Ages Scotland by Picts. Marshall does action incredibly well, and the cast, led by Michael Fassbinder and a terrifying nemesis in Bond-girl Olga Kurleynko do a great job with the material. Sure, it’s pulpy stuff, but pulp doesn’t get much better than this.
5- Robin Hood – The latest collaboration between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe took a number of licks in the North American press, and was written off as a colossal failure in spite of its rather healthy critical and financial reception everywhere else in the world. It’s a shame, as Ridley has crafted another fine historical drama that provides a decidedly different take on the Robin Hood myth. All of Ridley’s typical strengths are on display; visual style, great performances, and a dramatic tale that plays better to a mature audience than to your average blockbuster fan. There’s not a feathered mullet or Bryan Adams song to be found, and nowhere within does Robin Hood don a pair of green tights and rob from the rich to feed the poor. This is a tale anchored in the reality of post crusades Britain, when the King fed off of the landowners with little given in return. It actually makes a fine follow-up and companion piece to Scott’s earlier Crusade-epic, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. Like that earlier film, stick with the director’s cut.
4- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – I was never a fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of manga inspired comic books, but with Edgar Wright involved, I had to give this one a shot. Visually, its one insane minute after another, full of sight gags and kung fu tomfoolery, but beneath the surface there’s a heartfelt tale about love, maturity, and respect. Plus, Scott Pilgrim’s quest to defeat the 7 evil exes who control the future of his soul mate’s love life is just stuffed to the brim with hilarity. Wright and O’Malley collaborated on the script, dumping what didn’t work, gouging out the series’ more bizarre flights of fancy, and grounding the film in a just this side of real world Toronto. Michael Cera is great, the supporting cast are universally awesome, and the evil Exes are pitch-perfect (especially Chris Evans and Brandon Routh). There’s also the great dialogue, great music, great sets, great fight scenes, hell – this is just one hell of a great movie.
3- The Town – Ben Affleck is quickly proving that not only is he a better than capable dramatic actor, but that he’s one hell of a force behind a camera as well. ‘The Town’ is a riveting crime drama in the spirit of Michael Mann’s best, with beautifully realized characters and some beautifully mounted action scenes sprinkled throughout. The film hinges on Affleck’s performance, and it’s easily a career best. The supporting cast is also universally fantastic, including another incredible turn from up and comer Jeremy Renner. The film’s “big score” set piece rivals the very best “robberies gone mad”, Think the Shootout in ‘Heat’ and you’ll have some idea of just how intense it is. There hasn’t been a lot of serious effort put into Crime films in recent years, but this is probably the best one to come along since the genre had its heyday in the 90s.
2- Inception – Much has been said about Christopher Nolan’s brain-bending thriller, and rightfully so. Nolan has crafted a science fiction masterpiece that’s one part treatise on human dreamscape and one part all out heist film. Leonardo DiCaprio shines, backed by an intelligent and thought provoking script, but it’s the ideas, the surreal images, and the narrative flow that really make ‘Inception’ truly something special. It keeps you guessing, it sideswipes you, and the labyrinthine machinations of Cobb and his team of dream thieves keep you on your toes until the final, fantastically low-key conclusion. Seldom do we see a thriller on such a huge scale feature such a vivid imagination, but ‘Inception’ pulls it off, and is relentlessly entertaining.
1- True Grit – I’ll be up front here, The Coens haven’t been the same for me since 2001’s ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. That’s not to say that their post ‘00s offerings suffered, but there was some floundering there, accompanied by a smattering of sombre self indulgences. There’s no doubt that Joel and Ethan are truly gifted and challenging filmmakers, but their later work, while still suitably quirky, lacked that charm and appeal that peppered even the darkest of trips they took us on in their earlier films. ‘True Grit’ is very likely their masterpiece. The film captures everything that’s best about the Brothers Coen, both from their earlier efforts and their later works, and gives a seamless blend that goes beyond anything else in their extensive body of work. Forget John Wayne’s 1969 version, this is not a remake of that film, but rather an adaptation of the source novel, and it nails the tone and the tale perfectly. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin all turn in exemplary performances, but it’s the young lead, Ms. Hailee Steinfeld who really steals the film and just pulls you in. The film also looks and sounds absolutely beautiful thanks to the efforts of longtime Coen collaborators; Cinematographer Roger Deakins, and composer Carter Burwell. The rest of this list may have been a tad difficult to put together, but there was no doubt as to which film was taking #1.
As the ancient Tibetan philosophy states:"Don't start none... won't be none...".