2010 Year End Movie Review: David Medsker

No year in recent memory got off to as slow a start as 2010 did. In the end, it turned out to be a pretty damn good year – especially once I compare this list of movies to my picks from 2008 – but there were some rough patches early on, where nearly every movie we were seeing wasn’t merely mediocre but downright bad. The difference between this year and other years was the event movies; no one expects them to be award-winners, but it makes such a difference when they’re at least good (“Iron Man,” for example). This year, with a couple of exceptions, they were not good (“Iron Man 2,” for example).

People like to put down movie critics for being cranky sourpusses, but the truth is most of us want to like the movies we see. “TRON: Legacy,” “Salt,” “Due Date“… I wanted those to be awesome. They weren’t.

Luckily for me, there were just over 10 movies that were awesome, which means I have enough for a list, yay! And here they are, along some movies that were most decidedly not awesome. Happy new year, everyone. Now let’s all close our eyes and pretend we don’t see the 3D. Maybe, that way, it will go away.

Best Movies of 2010

1. Black Swan
The beauty of Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller about a fragile ballet dancer is that there is rarely a point where you know whether you’ve swallowed the blue pill or the red pill. The mirror work alone demands repeat viewings, if you’re brave enough.

black swan

2. The Social Network
Where Jesse Eisenberg officially stops being ‘that guy who acts like Michael Cera’ and puts on a showstopping performance as the brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerberg. Rooney Mara, meanwhile, is on screen for about six minutes, but makes every second count. And she’s right about the Internet – everything’s written in ink.

social network 3

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The most wildly entertaining movie I saw all year. From the dialogue to the editing to the on-screen sound effects, I had a stupid grin plastered to my face from start to finish. Even better to see Chris Evans and Brandon Routh poke fun at their superhero images. And I want to swim in Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s eyes.

scott pilgrim 2

4. Inception
There is a backlash growing against Christopher Nolan. I do not understand why. His movies are well-plotted, well-acted, smart and gorgeous. What’s not to love? Yes, “Inception” was chatty, but pardon the pun, it dared to dream, and I love movies that go for it. And so did a lot of other people, as its $290 million box office take will attest.

inception

5. Toy Story 3
There isn’t a movie out this year that touches the last 10 minutes of “Toy Story 3” in terms of emotional impact. Terrifying one minute, heartbreaking the next, and armed with a bittersweet yet pitch-perfect ending. I still can’t make it through the ending, or even the beginning, without crying.

toy story 3

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Pretty funny/Less funny or “Actors With and Without Benefits”

I’m returning to my occasional game of comparison between successful and not so successful attempts at humor with a contrast that’s less outrageous than usual. Today we have two new trailers for comic films dealing with the not-really-so-new phenomenon of people having sex with friends they’re not actually dating.  Neither is bad, exactly, but I think one is definitely funnier than the other.

The trailer that came out last night for “No Strings Attached” isn’t terribly unfunny. It also isn’t all that terribly funny or compelling and, in my view, there’s mostly one reason for that and he’s winking at you right now. See if you agree.

Now, we move along to today’s Red Band (and hence a bit mildly NSWF) trailer for the similarly themed movie with the title you knew someone was going to use: “Friends With Benefits.”

Not necessarily a work of genius but pretty entertaining stuff that had me laughing out loud right at the end. The difference? Well, it’s pretty clear that we have a leading man issue. Though I might be tempted to argue he’s a better producer than director, Ivan Reitman has certainly proven he can make a very decent, or better than decent, comedy. However, Billy Wilder, himself would have probably made a mediocre film if the studio saddled him with an Ashton Kutcher equivalent. Natalie Portman‘s a very good actress who I’m sure will bring out the best in Kutcher, but his best, as far as I can tell, isn’t good.

Starting out as a teen idol, some initially dismissed Justin Timberlake in much the same way I still dismiss Kutcher and, before I actually saw him in anything, I might have expected to feel the same. Funny part is, Timberlake turned out to be a hard working and very likable actor, and his notices for “The Social Network” indicate he’s going to continue to be moving up. He also he has no problem making fun of himself and his career so far. Here, it really pays off and with Mila Kunis — another actor who’s turned out much better so far than I originally expected — he’s really got something to work with. A wise choice by “Easy A” director Will Gluck.

So, my advice to directors considering casting choices is clear: seek the Timberlake; avoid the Kutcher.

H/t Screencrave and /film.

  

Related Posts

Weekend box office: “The Social Network” kicks off Oscar season with a low-key victory; “Let Me In” in isolation

The Social NetworkNot that a brainy drama about the founding of a popular web site really should do ultra-massive business, but there were those expecting huge numbers for “The Social Network” and, as reported here on Thursday, the film was expected to make at least $25 million. However, as we peruse the Box Office Mojo chart, we see that it did a respectable but far from immense $23 million and, as everyone is noting, it’s success seems to be concentrated in urban areas. Not a surprise. Still, for those fascinated by the Jessie Eisenberg vs. Michael Cera Jewish dweeb v. Goyish geek showdown, this is a big win for Team Jessie, I suppose. Mazeltov.  Overall, it seems likely that the collaboration between between the powerhouse team of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin’s place as the film-to-beat, awards-wise, is set and that should mean some very strong legs.

The week’s #2 film was probably a pleasant surprise for Zack Snyder and Warners. “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” did well in matinees, probably benefiting from little competition for the always crucial family dollar. The film dropped only 32.6% from its lackluster opening for an estimate of $10.8 million and change. Oliver Stone’s third-place “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” suffered a more usual drop of just under 47% for a neither-bullish-nor-bearish estimated week 2 take of $10.1 million for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox.

Easy A,” a cheaply made and therefore very profitable mini-hit comedy, and the outright bomb, “You Again,” earned estimates of $7 million and a skosh above $5.5 at fouth and fifth place, respectively. Then, we get to this week’s two horror releases.

“Case 39” — a horror flick aimed at adults which has generated no excitement anywhere, with anyone, is thought to have made about $5.35 million. Still, that makes them a whole $50,000 ahead of this week’s real box office unfortunate.

People will be picking apart the really not good $5.3 million estimated performance for Overture of the solidly made, beautifully acted horror/coming-of-age remake “Let Me In” for weeks. I personally think that both Anne Thompson and her box-office guy Anthony D’Allesandro are partially on the right track. The idea that it fell in the cracks between the art-house and horror world has some real validity. As I’ve often noted, horror fans these days seem to demand hard-edged scares often amounting to simulated trauma, and “Let Me In” pretty obviously isn’t going to that place. Real art house patrons might turn up their noses, preferring the “real” film, “Let the Right One In,” from Sweden and non-horror fans might avoid it simply because it’s horror. Some may even assume it’s in some way like “Twilight.”

There’s also the issue of R-rating which D’Allesandro termed a “stake through the heart.” Indeed, both films will likely become favorites of young people who see them on home video and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I usually dislike parents taking young kids to “hard R”-rated films, but despite a couple of scenes of strong blood, some ingeniously implied ultra-violence, and some morally complex ideas that would probably benefit from a bit of parent-child discussion, I certainly wouldn’t think less of parents allowing mature tweens to see either film. I’m sure many will on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The other good news for Matt Reeves, however, is that his film only cost $20 million. It’s also possible there will be some award nominations here and there. It’s just a shame that, given their ages, neither Chloe Moretz or Kodi Smit-McPhee are likely to be nominated in the Best Actor or Actress Oscar category, and there’s really no justification at all to say that either of them are in “supporting” roles. It’s completely their movie.

LET ME IN

  

Related Posts

Weekend box office: greed is still pretty good

Things turned out at this weekend’s box office more or less as predicted on Thursday. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” came in on top at an estimated $19 million for Fox, according to the Box Office Mojo chart, about a million or two shy of the figures being bandied about, but close enough for an adult skewing film expected to have decent legs. Nikki Finke thinks it may have missed it’s moment in terms of being a topical must-see and also avoiding some bad press provided by the mouthy Oliver Stone. Maybe. She also points out that Fox hasn’t exactly been on a hot streak this summer. Still, this is actually a career high, raw cash wise, for Stone and not too bad a showing for the longest break between an original and a sequel since Martin Scorsese and Paul Newman dared to follow-up the genuine classic, “The Hustler,” with his underrated non-classic, “The Color of Money,” a quarter century after the fact.

Following not so far behind, really, is Warners’ “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” which earned an estimated $16.3 million. Anthony D’Allesandro is calling the film a “bomb” along the lines of the recent “Cats and Dogs” sequel. That may be accurate compared to what family films like this usually make and in light an as yet unspecified large budget but it’s still within a couple of million of this weekend’s $50-70 million live-action hit.

gahoole22

While the books might have had an audience, something just seemed generally awry and the film lacked a clear premise for non-fans other than “owls fighting.” Whether or not Zack Snyder, whose early hits are receding in the memory of Hollywood, no doubt, gets to remain in the high end movie big leagues may now be largely dependent on what happens when his strange and zany looking action fantasy, “Sucker Punch,” comes out on 3/25/11.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Weekend boxoffice: Ben Affleck steals the weekend, but “Easy A” hangs onto to its virtue

A surprise this week. A film that seemed to skew towards an older and more male audience actually grabbed more box office lucre than a high-concept comedy aimed largely — albeit on a weekend where no one made anything close to a cinematic mint.

Ben Affleck and Rebecca Miller in

He might look down in the pic above, but Ben Affleck — whose taken his share of sometimes deserved and sometimes not so deserved lumps as an actor over the years — has something to celebrate today. To be specific, the cowriter-director-star’s heist drama, “The Town,” swiped an estimated $23.8 million for Warner Brothers according to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart. I’m guessing that the film got a boost from pent up demand for a the kind of plot-centric thriller we adult males seem to crave, as well as the budding  potential superstar presences of Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Blake Lively, not to mention female lead Rebecca Miller. Since older people usually pay a bit more attention to critics, it’s actually possible that the unusually good reviews helped here.

If Cinemascore means anything — and I’m not all that sure that it means all that much — “The Town” might have also gotten a boost from word of mouth, since Anne Thompson tell us it got a better than average B+ all around. Thompson also quotes Warner’s distribution chief Dan Fellman, saying that the studio is looking ahead to award season for the thriller. Moreover, Fellman also reminds us that the film is the largest September opening in Warner’s history (that is to say, September kind of sucks for box office). Though it’s not the kind of movie that usually wins Oscars, the loosened up Best Picture category certainly helps a well-reviewed and reasonably popular film’s chances.

Emma Stone in The PG-13 not-having-sex high school comedy with promising youngster Emma Stone,Easy A,” which was supposed to be #1 as of Thursday night, didn’t quite get there. However, seeing as its budget is reportedly $31 million less than the actually rather modestly budgeted “The Town,” it is by far the most profitable film of this frame with  respectable estimated receipts of $18.2  and an extremely respectable $8 million budget. It’s another fiscal win for Sony/Screen Gems, which has been on a sort of hot streak of late.

The M. Night Shymalan-produced “Devil” took the hindmost of the top 3 with a less than spectacular $12.58 million for Universal, which by now is used to disappointments. Though not directed by Shymalan, the PG-13 film was promoted as if it was and Uni and the man they call “Night” may finally be paying the price for all the almost universally disliked but oddly successful films that bore the once hugely promising filmmaker’s name. Anne Thompson wonders if the two other scheduled films drawn from stories by Shymalan to be directed by up-and-comers on low budgets, “The Night Chronicles,” will happen now. Mr. S., I grew up watching Rod Serling productions, I know Rod Serling’s work. You’re no Rod Serling.

The weekend’s other new release proved that audiences can spot a cheaply made 3D animated family film rather easily for something that is likely a far, far cry from Pixar or Dreamworks Animation. “Alpha and Omega” came in below the predictably sinking-like-a-stone-in-week #2 “Resident Evil: Afterlife” with an anemic $9.2 million.

A number of new films came out in limited release this week. The most impressive per-screen average of the week was $30,000 for the Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, “Never Let Me Go.” The British science-fiction romantic drama earned $120,000 on four screens for Fox Searchlight, though it’s muted reviews may dim its Oscar hopes, which is really the only root to major success for a film like this at present. The highly buzzed, probable documentary (there are doubters, though everyone agrees it’s no “I’m Still Here“), “Catfish,” may have better Oscar hopes if it reassures the Academy that it really and truly is a documentary. It did well this weekend for Rogue with a $255,000 in only 12 theaters.

9554_FP2_00048R.JPG_cmyk

  

Related Posts