31 August 2010

EDITORIAL - Evaluating 2010 Thus Far

Opposed to last year, 2010 hasn't had a lot of movies I was anxiously looking forward to. There were only two big films that I literally couldn't wait to see, and now they've come and gone. And as far as the rest of the year looks - well, I'm not holding my breath for anything, really. I mean, there appears to be some good ones, but nothing that screams "OMGZ!!" Last year we had Avatar and Sherlock Holmes to look forward to - this year....hell, I don't even remember. But now that we're at the end of August, and subsequently the summer season, I'd thought it be nice to do a little look back, er, Top 10, of the last eight months. I am curious if this list is going to change much at all by years end, though I'm pretty confidant my number one will still be my number one.

Ranking The Top 10 of 2010 (Thus Far)

10. The Last Airbender
Directed by M. Night Shyalaman
Shyamalan's box office 'disaster'. Well, I'll admit, I wasn't a fan of the movie when I first saw it. There was a obvious major lack of talent in the cast, and the script could have used improvements, but quite honestly, the more I think about the film, I find myself liking it more and more. It's not the disaster everyone in the universe thinks it is. This is what I like about the movie: the script remains faithful enough to the source material while delivering a two-hour movie and covering most of its bases. The story of a boy waking up to find that everyone he ever loved has died, and that he must assume a responsibility he really doesn't want. Cut in a few jokes here and there, and the script itself is passable, if not anything remarkable. There's two other things I really, really love about the movie, and it relates to cinematography: a single, rotating shot of Aang and Katara in the Icey Place, doing nothing more than practicing water bending against James Newton Howard's fantastical score. It's a gorgeous, peaceful shot that has resonated with me longer than nearly anything else has. Another aspect I love: the final 15 minutes, which was just awesome by any consideration of the world. Aang accepting his path, Aang raising the water and freaking the shit out of the Fire Nation, and the battle between Aang and Zuko. Great, great stuff. And did I mention Howard's score yet? Basically, a good movie that has a lot of pitfalls, but still worth seeing.

09. Get Him to the Greek
Directed by Nicholas Stoller, 109 mins.
As a spin-off flick to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there really wasn't a ounce of me that thought Get Him to the Greek would be any good, let alone the fact I loathe Jonah Hill. Um, sorta turns out I was wrong. While not being a perfect comedy by any means like last year's I Love You, Man, the movie still has great, great moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and manages to make the often insufferable Jonah Hill a pretty cool cat who I wouldn't mind hanging out with. Russel Brand, mind you, is just as awesome as he was before, and despite my fear that more screentime for the lad would make him less likable, the reverse is actually true. This is Brand and Hill's movie through and through, and they totally own it; they've got great chemistry, easily working off one another and creating some great gags. Definitely one of the surprise likes of the summer, I quite intend on owning it on DVD.

08. Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau, 125 mins.
A worthy follow-up to 2008's mega blockbuster Iron Man, indeed. Summation as follows: 1) I didn't so much mind all the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D heavy workings until about the third time in, but it's still very, very cool. 2) The movie went to places, story-wise, I didn't expect; darker places, and I'm very grateful for that. 3) Unfortunately, the script didn't capitalize on the emotional milkyway they had with those plot development (e.g., the blood poisoning from the suit and Pepper's reaction to finding out about it). 4) Sam Jackson as Nick Fury - still awesome. 5) The old video with Howard Stark - awesome. 6) Mickey Rourke actually wasn't too bad, but his character and his motivations could indeed have been fleshed out more. 7) Robert Downey, jr. is still frakken awesome, as was Gwenyth Paltrow, of whom I was very happy to have increased screen time. 8) The movie works quick until the final reel, then the time begins to become feelable. 9) There may have been too much comedic moments in the movie...maybe. 10) Overall, I liked what director/co-writer Favreau did with the movie, where he took it from a story standpoint, and I still think it is a success, no matter the promotion of other films and tie-ins throughout this picture.

07. Predators
Directed by Nimrod Antal, 107 mins.
I love the Predator franchise, and the last two AVP movies were shit. Honestly, completely, you know deep down they're shit. So with that in mind, I was quite expecting Predators to be following that same line of shittiness. Turns out, Predators was awesome. Like, super awesome. Better than I could have expected. Adrian Brody was pretty damn kick-ass in the lead macho man role, the Predators were threatening and frakking awesome once again, and best of all - the movie stayed true to the original motion picture - in tone, design and atmosphere. First of all, the movie boiled down to the characters once again, and this time, the movie features a bunch of diverse dudes we actually find interesting and worth rooting for. Now granted, they're not the best human beings on the planet - far from it - but they're utterly captivating, and I was never waved in my interest to see where this was heading. The Predator designs were pretty gorgeous, even the new version made for this movie; y'know, the big ultimate kickass one. And director Nimrod Antal did a most excellent job creating a bleak, dangerous planet atmosphere. Basically, Predators rocks.

06. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief
Directed by Chris Columbus, 120 mins.
In the pantheon of young adult novels that received live-action adaptations in the wake of Harry Potter's success, Percy Jackson is by far one of the more successful - and the funny thing is that the movie hardly stays true to the source material. The movie adaptation is fun in its own regard, and also works as a great advertisement for the five-book series, so that's accomplishment #1. Really, the thing that seems to bother me about other movies such as this, is that they tend not to have a fully developed screenplay or likable/good enough actors on their payroll. Or, more often than not, a lack of enthusiasm by the director that oozes into every facet of the movie [e.g., this summer's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer's Apprentice]. From that standpoint, Percy Jackson is a rousing success - every frame features that same infectious enthusiasm I'm sure the filmmakers had, and by the end, I didn't want it to go. Logan Lerman, the titular hero, was fantastic, so much so that I wouldn't have minded a least if he became the new Spider-Man [whoever this Andrew Garfield dude is]. I liked how they integrated Greek mythology into contemporary times, how the Greek Gods were represented in the film, and even the miscellaneous adventures our trio [always a bleedin' trio] underwent to save the day and stop a Olympian war. It was good stuff.

05. Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich, 108 mins.
Alright, confession time before I go any further. I saw Toy Story 3 a few days after it opened. I liked it. I was moved by it. I thought it was a good movie. And considering that I grew up with this franchise, and the main human character's name is Andy, I've felt a bit of a kinship with this trilogy. But the sad thing is I didn't love it; I didn't exit the theater thinking, Wow, that was a spectacular, awesome movie that compliments the previous two perfectly. Don't get me wrong, it works magnificently as a conclusion to this series - a marvelous ending, better than I could have hoped, but I just feel like something was missing. Perhaps it's the script. Perhaps it's just me. Sadly, I haven't had a opportunity to revisit the film since I saw it, so I can't give a proper review, or a proper sussing out of what I feel towards it, so its placement at number five on this list is purely a reflection of my admiration for the series, and my emotional state after it ended. I don't wish for their to be a Toy Story 4 - this nicely knitted everything together, and it felt very conclusive.

04. Inception
Directed by That One Guy, 148 mins.
Arguably the single most looked forward movie of 2010, the surprising thing about Inception is that it wasn't the colossal mind frak that we all guessed it would be. The reason it feels so convoluted and massive is that Nolan establishes all these rules and sub-rules and different levels of dream states scene after scene in the midst of action sequences, that it can become a little daunting. Actually, Inception is pretty cool in its simplicity - the heart of the story being Cobb's desire to see his two children again, and his emotional quest to forgive himself for his involvement in his wife's death. Gorgeous cinematography, magnificent music by Hans Zimmer, fantastic performances from everyone involved, and a all-around fun and exhilarating watching experience. And if it wasn't for the pure awesomeness of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and a new super-awesome fight scene every seven minutes, the hallway fight - which I will rewatch, rewatch, rewatch, and oh...rewatch! on Blu-Ray - would most definitely be my favortist action scene all year.

03. The Karate Kid
Directed by Harald Zwart, 140 mins.
Yeah, surprises the shit out of me. I would never have guessed that the 2010 re-imagining of The Karate Kid would make any sort of positive Best Of list, yet here we are. It may run a little long - and with repeated viewings it becomes more noticeable - but the ironic thing is that what I want out of it is more. Simply put, the characters are so rich, and the story is so well told and acted by these great performers, that I wanted every scene shot included in the final cut; I wanted to follow Jaden Smith's journey from beginning to end, and the evolution of Jackie Chan's character who suffers from deep grief over the death of loved ones. From frame one all to the way to the conclusion where - big zero spoiler - Jaden Smith is victorious over his bullies, the movie grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Marvelous performances, a wonderful, wonderful screenplay, this movie was spectacular. With news of a sequel in the works, I'm not exactly too thrilled or optimistic about it, but this film - even if you're a faithful fan of the original movies and/or series - it's absolutely 110% worth seeing.

02. Kick-Ass
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 115 mins.
The movie that improves with each subsequent viewing, Kick-Ass is a monumentally awesome movie. Much like Scott Pilgrim, the movie is brilliantly faithful to the original material, and any changes made not only make sense, but remains true to the source and works just as well for the motion picture. Of course the main attraction of this movie is Chloe Grace Mortez (Let Me In), who literally and figuratively kicks ass in her role as 12-year old Hit Girl. This is her movie, her crowning achievement, and I doubt this movie would be just as grand without not only her character, but this actress. Mark Strong plays the villain (surprise) magnificently, and Aaron Johnson plays dweeby Dave perfectly - a teenager who is utterly scared shitless, but makes a astronomical choice anyway. A great, fun movie that hits all the right notes - the comedy is all there, the violence is pleasantly violent, the actors are fantastic, the direction, music, and editing is spot on. All these elements come together to make Kick-Ass a infinitely re-watchable movie that is highly appealing.

01. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by Edgar Wright, 107 mins.
Does the fact that I've seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World four times possibly hint that I'm in love with the movie? It truly is the best movie of 2010, and perhaps the best flick period since Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight [yeah, I know a lot of people will disagree with this; like, a lot a lot]. Every iota of this movie is, for me, perfect. Even the seemingly out of place dance sequence with Matthew Patel, the first evil ex, works after seeing it again and thinking about it. For such a short running time, tasked with accomplishing so much - establishing Ramona Flowers, the seven evil exes, Scott's personality, Scott's relationship with Knives Chow, Scott's relationship with his band, friends, and sister, and the overall style, tone, and music of the movie - director/co-writer Edgar Wright has pulled out a crowning achievement. Of course I would love for there to be a three hour director's cut that further explores characters and storylines, but I'm quite happy with what we got here. This is a super duper awesome perfect movie that fulfills all the quotas of a 'boy meets girl' movie as well as the video game/live-action adaptation requirements. I honestly can't say enough good things about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and it's a utter shame - nah, I crime! - that after two weeks, the film had virtually disappeared from the Top 10 and will be a financial failure. If you haven't seen Scott Pilgrim yet...well, WHAT ARE YOU BLEEPIN' WAITIN' FOR?

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