Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mid-year report card: One man's picks for the best movies of 2010 (so far)

After a more than slightly disappointing beginning to this movie year, we've been on a real roll of late.

The winning streak started with "Toy Story 3," the perfect ending to a great movie trilogy, and continued with the surprisingly charming "Despicable Me" on through the ambitious mindbender "Inception" (and if you really think you can explain that one to me, bring it on.)

Overall, not nearly as good a movie year as 2009, but it's clearly getting better, and the fall should have some real winners (more on that in coming weeks). Here is one man's opinion about the best movies (so far) of 2010, in order of preference.

10. "Shutter Island": I'd say Leonardo DiCaprio was in a mindbending movie rut if the ones he's been in this year weren't so good. "Shutter Island," a Martin Scorsese movie based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, was a B-movie flick with A-level acting and style. Now on DVD.

9. "Alice in Wonderland": Though many - if not most - of director Tim Burton's adaptations/remakes are tired, this was a welcome exception. It was full of whimsy and surprising restraint from Burton, and for once, Johnny Depp was funny rather than simply creepy in a Burton movie as the Mad Hatter. Now on DVD..

8. "Date Night": This is most certainly the year of Steve Carell on the big screen, and since he's soon likely to quit "The Office," why not? Though this flick with co-star Tina Fey lacked the anarchic spirit of Scorsese's "After Hours," from which it clearly draws inspiration, it was still a fun night out with two very talented comedians. Coming to DVD on Aug. 10.

7. "Despicable Me": Carell again, in a flick that proves Pixar doesn't have the market cornered on mixing wicked humor with heart. After a slow start full of run-of-the-mill jokes, it develops into a thoroughly charming animated tale, and contains my single favorite movie line of 2010 so far: "The physical appearance of the please makes no difference." In theaters now.,

6. "Inception": This is, of course, all anyone is talking about now when it comes to movies, and what more can you ask for than that? Christopher Nolan's dreamscape may well move up on this list over time, but for right now, I need to see it again, because after one viewing it left me with as many questions as answers, and that's far from a complaint. In theaters now.

5. "A Prophet": It has been called "The French Godfather," and though that's clearly a high bar to set, the comparison actually works on many levels. The story about what one man has to do to survive a long stint in prison - from unsavory alliances to even more unsavory activities - is simply mesmerizing from start to finish. Out on DVD Tuesday.

4. "Kick-Ass": Really? Yes, really. Though there are clearly questions about the morality of a 13-year-old, extremely foul-mouthed and even more lethal "Hit-Girl," played by young Georgian Chloe Moretz, there's no denying that it's funny. And this is, after all, a comic-book movie, and one that in the hands of director Matthew Vaughn breathes new life into that very familiar genre. Now on DVD.

3. "That Evening Sun": A definite highlight of the 2010 Macon Film Festival, this stars Hal Holbrook in a revival of the great Southern movie, a genre that's becoming far too much of a rarity. He's angry, ornery and excellent as an old man who escapes from a nursing home to reclaim his former home, now being inhabited by another Macon Film Festival favorite, Ray McKinnon. Not to be missed, and coming to DVD on Sept. 7. And the Macon Film Festival will return Feb. 17, 2011, so stay tuned.

2. "Toy Story 3": Is Pixar's marquee trilogy also now the best movie trilogy of all time? The argument can certainly be made, since it started with a groundbreaking original, upped the ante with a second chapter that was even better in terms of story and humor, and then finished up (we assume) with a final chapter that was both a rousing adventure and a definite charmer, and yes, the ending did make this grown man cry (admit it, you did too.) In theaters now.

1. "Winter's Bone": Debra Granik's movie takes a classic film genre, the film noir, and sets it in just about the bleakest possible setting, the Missouri Ozarks. And though it can often indeed be as depressing as that sounds, it's also riveting as newcomer Jennifer Lawrence tries to unravel the mystery of what has happened to her deadbeat father, who has put up the house she shares with her two young siblings as a guarantor that he'll appear in court on charges of making meth. This is, indeed, the perfect kind of movie for the Macon Film Guild to offer this fall (though I don't have any say in that), and worth seeking out now in select theaters.

Honorable mention: "Youth in Revolt", "Edge of Darkness", "Ghost Writer", "The Crazies", "The Good Heart", "OSS 117: Lost in Rio", "Splice", "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work", "Get Him to the Greek" and "Cyrus"

So, there you have it. Please feel free to share any you think I may have snubbed (and there's surely more than one), and to offer any of your favorites from this movie year so far. Peace out.


J. Marquis said...

I really want to see "Winter's Bone". Looks like my kind of flick.

I was really disappointed with "Inception". I didn't feel like I was watching dreams..just three simultaneous action movies.

Reel Fanatic said...

I know several people who feel that way, Mr. Marquis ... I too got a sense of action overkill about two hours in or so, but by then I was sucked in by the basic heist premise of the movie, and was with it until the end ... And I guarantee you'll love "Winter's Bone"

M. Dean said...

Hey, I'm sure this isn't something you would drive two hours for, but I went up to the Plaza Theater in Atlanta this week and caught a screening of Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers. Despite it being depraved, perverted, sad, and unsettling; it was also a great time. It's only playing a week at a time across the U.S. which reminds me of the days Roger Corman would travel around and show his films. Anyways, thought you may be interested if you're up that way. A great theater and a cool little part of Atl that no one usually sees.

Reel Fanatic said...

Actually, I just might, M.Dean ... I love the Plaza, and even though Harmony Korine's movies never easy to watch, they're also very much unique

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