Year In Review: Movies

Though this year didn’t have the major releases normally audiences have grown accustomed to; there were some simply wonderfully charming and original movies that were released this past year. I’ll keep it simple: best, worst and didn’t not see.

The Best:

1. “Inception” – I’m firmly indoctrinated in the Christopher Nolan bandwagon. Diverting his attentions away from the “Batman” franchise, he’s created one of the best stand alone movies of recent vintage and executed his reality with perfection. The casting for “Inception” was top notch and none of the actors overpowered the other by breaking their role. On screen presence was commanded by the key players and they kept it throughout the entire feature. I fully expect this film to be rewarded with numerous nominations by the various awards and experts.

2. “It’s Kind of a Long Story” – I went into this movie expecting a lot of laughs, especially when some of the leading / advertised actors are Zach Galifianakis and Jim Gaffigan; but instead was treated to one of the biggest surprises. The movie follows an over-stressed New York teenager’s experience while in a mental hospital and realizes the power and simple reward of helping people helps make life better and worth living. While it’s not an update on “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, the film has a simple message and doesn’t get boast or become to self glorified or over-the-top. The movie was a delight to experience and I highly recommend seeing it.

3. Dreamworks Animation’s Originals – Recently I caught the original films from Dreamworks this year which included “How To Train Your Dragon” and “Megamind”. While Disney-Pixar has set the standard recently in animation, Dreamworks’ threw a sucker punch this year with these two releases made me appreciate quality story telling and original stories that broke the mold. I seriously hope that Dreamworks Animation doesn’t turn either of those features into franchises simply because those original works are good enough to stand alone. Another thing I realized was the quality of Dreamworks’ production. Their animators are some of the best in the business and their style is much more mature than that of Disney-Pixar. Dear DP, I think we need to see other people. You’re in a rut and you keep retreading your films and my tastes have matured. I guess this is what happens when the Mouse comes in and runs the show.

4. “A-Team” – Easily the best action movie this year. I know enough about the original series, though was never a devotee to the series, I was able to appreciate the concept, story and application. The movie was plain, good ole American fun. It featured exciting action, great writing; all the while maintaining focus on the story and never drifting away from the end game. “A-Team” was fun beginning to end and should have garnered enough support to earn a sequel. The cast has great chemistry and Bradley Cooper has become one of the best male leads in Hollywood today, especially for movies like “A-Team”.

5. “The Other Guys” – Either you love Will Ferrell or you hate him. I know my co-host, TinPan falls in the hate him camp, and I’m in the love him camp. I know not all of his works are comedic gold, ala “Semi-Pro” or “Bewitched”, but I did not stop laughing through “TOG”. It’s a buddy cop movie with his intense-as-hell partner Mark Wahlberg. There are so many great cameos and bit parts that I can’t believe the actors could keep a straight face for anything longer than one take. The writing is top notch and doesn’t go for a cheap laugh. While a sequel would only take away from this story, “TOG” probably did well enough in the box office that one will be green lit. Easily, “The Other Guys” was the best comedy of 2010.

6. “The Social Network” – This is the non-fictional telling of the birth and business tribulations of “Facebook”. While in my first year of college, I got to experience the birth and growth of Facebook from a student’s only network to a global phenomenon. This is my generation’s Woodstock. The acting was well done but the problem for me was in casting Justin Timberlake. He was so recognizable that he took away from the entire production. I enjoyed getting to hear some of the business back end that it pretty much completes my experience with Facebook. I still maintain that having it closed to universities and colleges was when Facebook was the premier destination, now that it’s premium has been dissipated and watered-down to the masses, how long until Facebook is replaced with another medium? As for me, it’s Twitter. The movie was decent but considering the director’s pedigree from my point of view and I’m left wanting more. I’ve never been partial to any of the movies on his resume including: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Zodiac”, “Panic Room”, “Seven”, “Alien3” or “Fight Club”. He seems to make movies that others want him to make; either that or his signature and contributions aren’t anything that special, considering I find so many of those films to be over-rated and pedestrian.

7. “Due Date” – From the director of “The Hangover”, Zach Galifianakis pairs with Robert Downey Jr. in this road-trip buddy comedy. While I believe expectations were high after hearing “The Hangover” reference, the movie carves out its own corner and remains funny. Downey Jr. and Zach have a great chemistry and make the movie hilarious. It’s funny but it’s not “The Hangover” so please forget that stigma. There are some great cameos and the movie moves along well. Galifiankis was stupefying, frustrating and best of all – awkward. It’s not going to replace “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, but the pair works well and thankfully, there’s no room for a sequel.

The Bad:

1. “Black Swan” – I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a disappointment this movie was for me. Having read some critics that I normally trust and all of my traditional film as a contribution senses left me with an unquenchable vacuum of disappointment. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, for the most part, these critics heralded “Avatar’s” greatness even though it’s nothing more than a modern update on “Cowboys VS Indians” and “Look at how utterly evil these evil White man’s corporation’s are!” Piss on that; I deserve more as a paying audience member. But I digress. “Black Swan” was a simple psychological thriller that fulfilled every stereotype in the book. Nothing was original in telling the story and the film’s pacing was entirely off. There were so many different ways that the writer or director could have taken the audience, but rather decided to take a dump, not flush, and let it fester. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis did a great job with the material and performed there roles masterfully, though with a better writer and director could have made “Black Swan” into a devious psychological treat. I had such high expectations with this film because it could have scratched my itch for film as art and I thought it was going to be a much more visceral experience. Simply putting, this was a disappointment not experienced since the “Star Wars” prequels.

2. “Predators” – While it wasn’t the worse movie of the year, I thought it could have been so much better. As a fan of the first two movies, it’s a shame that the “Predator” series doesn’t get more love and attention, though I will say that with Robert Rodriguez at the helm there is still potential for the series. As a fan, I want to know more about the home-world of the “Predator” and I yearn for a quality story. In my opinion, the most intriguing part of the “Predator” is how and what they hunt, and how they impact the world they visit (ala Predator 2). Rodriguez stayed true to their hunter roots and thankfully they avoided any “Alien” reference. It’s nothing special and doesn’t do anything particularly well.

3. “Splice” – An utter disaster and waste of time. Take “Species” and combine that with a preachy message about medical testing reform and take out hottie Natasha Henstridge and you get “Splice”. The creature changes from a rodent into a human-esque creation. The creature wants to become more human and experience all that life has to offer, and turns to seduce Adrian Brody. There’s a “Jurassic Park” twist that is foreshadowed, cheap and unoriginal, even if it’s scientifically true; it’s still stupid. The creature changes genders and then in turn rapes the lead actress before being killed. The movie ends with a foreshadowing of a sequel as the lead actress is showing signs of pregnancy. For all intended purposes, a sequel would be best served as a direct to DVD with no theatrical release.

4. “The Human Centipede” – I’ve heard of gore-porn but this is as disturbing as it is retarded. Take all the camp and cheese of classically bad horror films and take out all of the gore and just replace with retarded. I had high hopes that some mad scientist was going to kidnap some dumbass foreign travelers conduct some evil and twisted Dr. Moreau or Dr. Frankenstein experiments and fuse extra limbs to the one of the victims, but no. We get some demented pervert that decides to put three people together into a chain, ass-to-mouth-ass-to-mouth. It was gross, stupid, and shallow. Disappointing and terrible don’t even begin to describe the movie. This movie doesn’t even deserve any “MST-3000” treatment but every copy should be refunded, burned, destroyed and forgotten because it was an utter and complete waste of time. This movie makes “Splice” seem like “The Godfather”; it’s just that bad. It was a disgusting and disturbing production. If SyFy had made the movie, you’d get what I had suggested, and that would be exponentially a better movie.

5.”Iron Man 2” – The best part of “IM2” is that it gets Marvel fans closer to “The Avengers”. There were some nice nods to Marvel lore and my favorite “Captain America” that is due to release in 2011. The action seemed predictable and an aged Mickey Rourke took away from the entire production, and as a Formula 1 fan, the racing scene was bad, cheap and fake, those were glorified go karts. “Driven” had better racing standards and that was the CART series (unfortunately not the better INDY series). Robert Downey Jr. did a good job with the material and Scarlett Johannsen did a wonderful job as Black Widow. It was an ok movie but Iron Man 2 needed more time to get a better script, better action, and to keep Terrence Howard. I loved him in his role as Rhodey in the first because he wasn’t necessarily a recognizable face, but Don Cheadle did an adequate job filling in and taking up the “War Machine” moniker. The movie was OK at best but I was disappointed.

Didn’t See:

1.”Toy Story 3” – What can I say? I have very little interest to see this sequel. While the second one was better than the first, I’m tired of Pixar thanks to Dreamworks. I don’t really care or identify with any of the characters so I can’t say that I’m particularly heart broken that I haven’t seen it.

2.”Dinner For Schmucks” – Now I have no expectation for this movie, but I’m a fan of a stupid comedy at times. I think Steve Carrell is a funny comedian though I don’t think he’s strong enough to carry an entire film. It should be exactly as I said, a stupid comedy but I fully expect to laugh.

3.”Harry Potter: and whatever” – *Hung the ‘Not Interested’ sign* Never been a fan. Sorry.

4. “True Grit” – I had my doubts but I’m very excited to see this movie. I love the Cohen Brothers and juxtaposed to the John Wayne “True Grit”, I fully expect this update to be worth while, cerebral and brutal – all of the things you couldn’t embody in the heyday of Western classics. I wouldn’t be surprised if it get’s a “Best Picture” nomination and wins, simply because the source material has that much potential.

5.”The Fighter” – I love a good boxing movie and the word of mouth I’ve heard is that this is not to be missed. I don’t expect it to replace “Rocky”, though I hope it’s good enough be in the conversation.