Saturday, January 01, 2011

FILM: The Best Films of 2010

Here are my favorite films of the year and why I'll be re-watching them 
all year long (spoilers):

Shutter Island
One of man's worst enemies is his himself. To lose faith in one's worth, to second-guess one's self, to question one's sanity can lead to ruin. In this film, Leonardo DiCaprio's character was faced with this burden, hellbent on finding a missing mental patient and feeling driven to insanity in the process. Martin Scorsese did a predictably well-detailed job of making you doubt everything you saw and everything you were told. It was a tragedy wrapped in a mystery. And the end result, the final twist, poses a question you'll find difficulty answering: Would it be worse to live as a monster or to die a good man?

This film is a bit of a mindfuck. It'll have you wondering if the life you're living is real or just a fabrication of your subconscious. I know, I know. If you were really dreaming, you'd be filthy rich. But somehow, some way, you'll finish watching it and become truly uncertain. You'll also realize that Christopher Nolan is an artist. James Cameron may have brought back 3D, but Nolan actually created a place that appeared 3D. Landscapes were folded inward, folded out, turned vertically, and sent into a spiral. It was like an origami planet. The set, the cinematography, and the intricacy of how the inception process works will have you marveling for days. 


The Karate Kid
I liked this movie so much I saw it twice. Jaden Smith has his father's work ethic. It shows in his performance and in the fight scenes that he worked extremely hard to add authenticity to this film. I really can't believe he trained for so long. I was also impressed with Jackie Chan's dramatic acting skills. He's usually the clown of all of his action movies and in this one you get to see a more muted performance, sort of a sad clown. 

The Town
I might actually like Ben Affleck more as a director and a screenwriter than I do as an actor. The trailer for this film presents it as your average heist flick: blue collar bank robbers pull off one last big job. But the final job is so unique and Boston-specific that my jaw actually dropped when they revealed the place they were going to rob. It makes perfect sense. It's the perfect target. I have no clue why no one has thought of robbing Shea stadium before. The planned getaway was also inspired. The character played to his strengths and to his ability to blend in, driving out of the city as a bus driver. It was one of the best getaways since Ocean's Eleven. Affleck also did a great job in choosing his costars. Jeremy Renner was far too convincing as a lowlife murderer and Jon Hamm toned down his sexiness from a 10 to a 2 to play an easy-to-fool and easy-to-piss-off FBI agent. As for Affleck's character, he was so good at planning heists that I'd definitely watch another caper with him at the helm.

It was really interesting watching Angelina Jolie play a seemingly defenseless woman who was desperate and afraid. But it was even cooler when she came to her senses and realized what she had to do. While I did enjoy her revenge montage, my favorite part was actually when she MacGuyvered the murder of her so-called compatriot—jumped off a balcony and choked him out with her handcuffs. It's rare to see a woman commit such a vicious act without playing a crazy person. It just made Angie seem even cooler, especially since she got away with it.

Hit-Girl really steals the movie. I mean, it's not often that you see a 12-year-old be so badass. The action scenes, the snarky, snippy, foul-mouthed dialogue, and the choreographed fight scenes were just awesome!

Knight and Day
This movie was a lot of fun. Cameron Diaz did a great job of playing the damsel in distress and Tom Cruise's constant attempts to calm her were extremely comical. Every action scene, from the car chase to the kitchen train fight to the warehouse shoot-out was both suspenseful and funny. The love story didn't have a lot of time to play out, but I like that it came full circle. First he saved her, then she saved him.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
This was an incredibly creative film. I loved the pop-ups and just the entire comic book aesthetic. It was like reading a comic book on an iPad, everything in 3D. The villains were kind of annoying and kitschy, but Michael Cera pulled off playing a superhero and Kieran Culkin provided just the right amount of snark and cynicism to tone down the dork factor.

The A-Team
Of the two ensemble action films that premiered this Spring, I thought I'd prefer The Losers, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover myself thoroughly amused by Sharlto Copley's Murdock and in awe of Liam Neeson's Hannibal. Not to mention, the aerodynamically impossible helicopter scene in the beginning was one of the coolest aerial stunts since the upside down flip-off in Top Gun.

Date Night
This is most likely the only instance in which you'll ever see Steve Carell and Tina Fey as both action stars and romantic leads. With Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and rapper Common filling out the supporting cast, there are plenty of laughs in every scene. The plot may be preposterous, but it's fun to see Carell and Fey put into certain situations, from muggings to forced strip teases.


Letters to Juliet
I'm a sucker for a film where the leads don't like each other initially. The hopeless romantic that Amanda Seyfried plays and the pompous, over-protective grandson that Christopher Egan plays butt heads at first, but once they start to get to know each other their chemistry is undeniable.

Leap Year
Here's another relationship that starts off as love-hate. The prim and proper Amy Adams clashes with the gruff Irishman Matthew Goode as she pays him to escort her to Dublin. You get to see the beautiful country and watch two polar opposites realize that they have more in common than they care to admit.

The Tourist
I loved the romantic story that was at the core of this film. I thought that Angelina Jolie's character was a fool for doing everything her paramour asked of her, but then when I realized it was all a test so she could prove her love for him, I was exponentially impressed.

Going the Distance
I liked this movie for spanning the time of a real relationship. So many rom-coms have love stories that happen over too short of a time. This one deals with a realistic problem that faces many couples today, and it doesn't pussyfoot around the consequences of a long distance relationship. It refreshingly spares us of the pristine and perfect leading lady and shows us a girl who swears and makes dirty jokes and doesn't always look put together. It also addresses our currently influx generation of 20somethings who are stuck in romantic and professional limbo, afraid of taking a chance on anything and fearful of repeating their parents' mistakes.

I think the next phase of Christina Aguilera's career should be on Broadway. She was such a natural on that burlesque stage. Her voice was made for those smoky, sultry, seductive performances. And she was surprisingly not a bad actress, considering it was her first time. Granted, it's not the best dialogue or the best coming-to-Hollywood tale, but it avoided all the cliche climaxes, told a practical love story, and showed some of the best performances in musical history. It makes Chicago look and sound like a high school play.

Valentine's Day
I love ensemble films, because there's always one couple/storyline that interests you. For this one, my favorite was the surprise gay couple in the end. They had you thinking that Bradley Cooper was trying to romance Julia Roberts, and then you discover he's in love with Eric Dane.

How to Train Your Dragon
I love dragons, but I didn't like the way they designed this one. It kind of looked like a lizard. But I soon forgot all about that minor detail once I got into the story of how a young scrawny Viking befriends his clan's sworn enemy. The mythology behind the dragons, the bond formed between boy and dragon, and the battles were cool enough even for an adult to enjoy.

Alice in Wonderland
I just think Tim Burton did an amazing job of re-imagining this world, and the set designers and wardrobe should be awarded for the attention to detail.

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