Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010 Movies - Honorable Mentions

Tomorrow I'll start the 2010 top ten countdown. So here's my movies that either came close to the making the list or were just surprises for me.

I've placed my four surprise movies into two groups. First are my Denzel Washington movies. I quickly dismissed both of these movies based on their trailers. They both looked silly to me. But upon reading some reviews from people that I trust, I went to see both The Book of Eli and Unstoppable. Before I continue, I need to remind you that these aren't great movies - but both were pretty entertaining.

If you didn't like The Book of Eli because of its ending, I understand. i read more than one person state that they were totally pulled out of the movie at that moment. It's a silly revelation, but I was OK with it. In the movie world created, it doesn't seem totally unplausable (slight eye roll). But I enjoyed the rest of the story enough to get into it and ride through it, so I was cool with it at the time.

So these two guys on one train are going to chase down another train? And trains are on tracks, right? It's not like the one train can zig and zag, right? Gotta be a lame movie. Unstoppable works. It's exciting and fun. Malcolm X and Captain Kirk make for interesting enough characters as well.

My next set of surprise movies are the "Dumb Action Movies That Don't Take Themselves Too Seriously So They End Up Being Really Fun" movies. They are The Losers and RED. I contrast these with The Expendables. I didn't see The Expendables in the theater, so it didn't appear anywhere on the list. But even though it advertised itself as being a fun 80s style action movie, it took itself too seriously. I was bored.

Both The Losers and RED might even consider themselves to be comedic action movies instead of action movies with humor. The directions both movies take are ridiculous, but the makers seem to know that. The action is over the top, but the makers seem to know that. Again, these aren't great movies - but you'll have fun.

And the runners up:

No documentaries made my top ten this year, but there were a bunch of really good ones. I already wrote about Exit Through the Gift Shop, Joan Rivers:A Piece of Work, Inside Job, and Catfish. I recommend all of those. But the best documentary I saw this year was Restrepo. It shows the daily life of these soldiers in Afghanistan in the Korangal Valley, which is described as the most dangerous place in the world. It never takes a side int he war. It doesn't consciously try to convince you of anything. It shows and tells the soldiers' stories. It's streaming on Netflix right now.

Also streaming on Netflix is Un Proph├Ęte, or A Prophet. It's a French film about the Mafia in the prisons. This kid in an outsider who falls under the protection of the mob boss in prison and begins to rise through the ranks.It's Goodfellas in prison with a totally different tone. OK, it's totally different from Goodfellas, but still damn good.

I moved The Fighter on and off of my top ten list. The reason it jumped on is because of Christian Bale. He is fantastic. He is so different from anything else he has done before. The same with Amy Adams. She hasn't done anything like her role before. It's a really good movie, but I think in the end it came down to - another boxing movie? Feel free to disagree.

127 Hours was difficult to watch for all the right reasons. You're supposed to be uncomfortable watching it. I can honestly say that I've come as close to being trapped with my arm pinned under a rock for five days as I really want to. It's a great movie.

However, I left with a similar thought that I had after watching Into the Wild a few years back. Both main characters are seen as heroes to people. But in reality, both are severe dumbasses. In 127 Hours, Aron Ralston broke every basic rule about going into the wilderness. With Into the Wild, I think Christopher McCandless was trying to commit suicide. So I guess he can be excused for doing the same thing. So, kids, remember this. Smart people learn from their own mistakes. Even smarter people learn from the mistakes of others.

Speaking of mistakes, tomorrow - number ten.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Mess of Movies

Here's some more...

Perhaps the most important movie of 2010 was Inside Job. If you thought Michael Moore's Capitalism was interesting but don't like his particular antics, this is a remedy. It tries to describe the financial meltdown of 2008. As I type this, I think about the comments I made about Waiting for Superman in the last post. But I choose to ignore that. While I think I have a better picture of what happened to the economy, I still don't understand derivatives. The movie does a fine job of trying, but I don't get it. But somehow, I think that's the point. They seem to be nothing more than banking slight of hand. You need to see this movie.

127 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was pretty much what you expect. If you liked the previous six, you'll watch it. If you didn't, you can skip it. For me, I have the dumbest criticism of it ever, but it's how I feel about it. The movie feels... incomplete. Well, duh. But previous movies designed to be continued later, such as Kill Bill and the Lord of the Rings felt like full movies. I was satisfied with those while looking forward to the next movie. I didn't get that here, and I think that's a result of the source material having been only one book. However, i loved the book. I think when the second part comes out, I'll almost consider it as one full movie, and I have a feeling that it's going to make the 2011 list.

I think it's important that you don't know anything about I Love You Phillip Morris before going in. I didn't know the real story, and it's a good one. There are twists and turns that seem improbable, and the more amazing ones were real. Jim Carrey is great and worth seeing.

Black Swan was interesting, but I can't go much beyond that. It turns out that I wasn't ready for a movie about ballet - who wudda thunkit? There are some cool visuals and the music from Swan Lake is great. But I didn't care for the story or what was going on.

Tangled is really good. It's cool that there are so many good animated movies out there. In fact, two made the top ten list. This one is funny, looks good, and is entertaining for everyone. It doesn't panders to kids.

Tron: Legacy looks really cool. My biggest complaint about the visual is that in the original the good guys were lit up in blue and the bad guys in red. The update has the bad guys in red and the good guys in white. On one hand, it gives the movie a bit of a black and white look. But that's not what Tron should be. The plot? Who cares. Some stuff happened leading them to some cool looking things. I have a strong, strong feeling that if I didn't like the original, I would have hated this. But then again, I probably wouldn't have seen it.

Casino Jack is the story of Jack Abramoff. Kevin Spacey is great in the lead role. He turns Abramoff into a real movie character. It's a pretty entertaining story. I'm surprised the movie got made as quickly as it did, since it seems like this stuff just happened. But it's probably a story worth telling because things don't change quickly in DC.

Somewhere feels like a really long version of its trailer. That's not necessarily a good thing. But after having a few days to absorb it, it's an interesting movie. There are some scenes and visuals that have stuck with me. It seems like the type of movie that I could see come on TV and I would watch for about 10 minutes or so. But then I would remember that it's a fairly boring movie. Very confusing.

All right - tomorrow I'll write about some movies that will be sort of an introduction to the top ten. They're movies that either could have made the top ten or ones that just surprised me. Then on the first, number 10.

Another Mass of Movies

And the movies continue...

I was surprised to really enjoy Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I'm not a fan of Joan Rivers. In fact, I remember being young (it had to be before 1986) and turning on the Tonight Show to see that she was guest hosting - then - turning it off. That always stuck in my head that she was that person who wasn't funny, so I avoided anything of hers. The next thing I consciously watched of hers was the season she was on the Celebrity Apprentice. So I watched this documentary based solely on critic recommendations. And I definitely recommend it. It's a well made doc, really interesting, and parts are really funny. It's streaming on Netflix now.

I Am Love received rave reviews. But I just didn't get it. Not that I didn't understand it. I didn't see what was so great. I walked out with the same feeling as when I saw Broken Embraces back in 2009, though I liked that one even more. Sure, I will concede that Tilda Swinton is great. But that is all.

Cyrus was just dumb. I never found a character to like, and the camera work was extra annoying. There was a lot of the unnecessary zooming that I found distracting in Battlestar Galactica. At this point, I don't even remember enough about much else to comment.

The Kids Are All Right was over hyped by critics. It was good, but not great. the acting was great all around. The story was mostly straightforward, though it took a couple ridiculous turns. While I'm glad I watched it and can recommend it, I hope it doesn't come up in awards season.

Salt was a goofy action movie. It was entertaining, and it wasn't totally predictable. Compared with your typical summer action movie, pretty good. That isn't the highest of praise, but it doesn't need to be.

I think I can comparatively say the same for Dinner With Schmucks. Kinda funny, but you didn't miss anything if you missed it. Considering the cast and people that worked on it, it could have been much better.

And once again, I repeat the same thing for The Other Guys. Kinda funny, but...

Catfish creeped me out. But only because I went through something too similar about ten years ago. Other than that, it's pretty good. There's some internet debate about whether it's real or not. I tend to believe it is just because of the way that things played out.

Waiting for Superman was a disappointment because we end still waiting. Superman doesn't even make a cameo. As far as the movie is concerned, it's a well made movie. It does what the filmmakers wanted to do. It pulls at the heartstrings and makes you think about schools one more time. But as someone in the profession who thinks about schools regularly, it's a bit deceitful. I suppose that if I knew enough about every documentary I watched, I might think the same thing, though. If you see it and you aren't a teacher, sit down with a teacher afterward so they can explain how things really are.

As I've mentioned before, every movie viewing is impacted by your emotional state at the time of watching it. Never Let Me Go is a movie that I wonder if I might have enjoyed more if I had seen it on a different day. Looking back, I liked a lot of what the movie was. I liked it, but I just didn't love the movie. I am curious to read the book.

More soon - I'm getting behind!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Round of Movies

Here are more movies from 2010 that didn't make the Top Ten list.

Clash of the Titans was entertaining enough. I remember leaving and thinking that is was being criticized too harshly, though it wasn't anything to get excited about. I definitely hated the slo-mo and shaky-cam. Not that I ever like that sort of thing, but they seemed out of place in this type of movie. But looking back, I don't remember too much. Very skippable and had a severe lack of Bubo.

Kick-Ass is a movie that had quite a lot of potential. I've read some of the comic, and I liked that enough. While parts were entertaining, it didn't resonate and I didn't care for it.

I think Harry Brown was interesting enough to recommend. Even though you know the basic story, it didn't quite go exactly where you think it's going, and the main character has a decent story arc. Michael Caine is usually pretty good, and there's no exception here.

Iron Man 2 was fun to look at, but its plot was too dense. The first movie got everything right. This one was, well, a sequel.

If you're reading this hoping for some movie ideas to add to your Netflix queue that you didn't know about, add Exit Through the Gift Shop. This is a crazy weird documentary about a guy who gets to know graffiti artists and then becomes one and then has his own show. But is it really a documentary? If you know who Banksy is, go watch this. And if you don't, watch it anyway.

Robin Hood was such a waste. It was dull. The Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood is such a FUN movie. That's what Robin Hood should be. The Disney version is fun. Kevin Costner's version is, even with that crappy Bryan Adams song, a far superior version to this turd.

If you enjoyed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, lower your expectations before you check out Get Him to the Greek. Aldous Snow was a great character in that movie, but doesn't necessarily deserve a full feature. It suffers from the some of the same problem that Saturday Night Live characters have going to the big screen. That being said, it has plenty of funny parts and it's rarely boring. It's worth watching, but again, lower your expectations.

I hated Splice. Hated it. Hated it. Hate. Hated. Hated it.

On the other hand, Winter's Bone was pretty good. It's a great character piece. That means those of you who like nothing but action or comedy, it takes patience. And And I admit mine was challenged a bit. But I was never sure where this movie was going, and it tells a pretty good story. And it always looks good. It has a very interesting point of view.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More flicks!

Here's another batch of 2010 movies that didn't make the top ten list.

The Ghost Writer
is a satisfying political thriller about a guy (Pierce Brosnan ghost writing the former British Prime Minister's memoirs. It's pretty obviously supposed to be Tony Blair, and it involves some secret information. It takes on a bit more weight with what's going on with Wikileaks.

The Green Zone does a nice job of mixing a non fiction story with a fictional action film. It's based on a non-fiction book about the search for WMDs in Iraq. I don't know how much was changed to avoid possible libelous accusations and how much was just changed to be an action movie.

In some ways, I liked Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I liked that he didn't simply retell the story but made it into a sort of a sequel. I also enjoyed how the movie is based more on The Jabberwocky than on the Alice stories. Back when I taught English, my students were required to memorize and recite a poem. I always got a kick out of the kids who picked The Jabberwocky. So that's what I liked. But I didn't dig the visuals - 3D sucks - and the pacing didn't work. I think it's because Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter, so he had to have a bigger role than was necessary.

Do you want to see something totally different? And I don't mean just random stuff that you can't understand making it different. I mean a story that is told in a different way. Watch the Korean movie Mother. It's a story of the mother of a mentally disabled boy. the boy is accused of murder. It's just... different.

Greenberg was one of those movies that had a better trailer than a movie. It looked like it would be a cool little independent movie, but I found it to be unsatisfying. There have been several small movies made by actors that I didn't care for, but they won be over. Ben Stiller didn't in this one. It has it's good parts, but overall it didn't work.

Chloe was OK, but I honestly don't remember too much. If I hadn't written it down, I wouldn't have remembered seeing it. So take that review for what it's worth.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity - Photos!

On October 30, 2010, I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here are my favorite signs and other stuff that I saw.

The Mild Movies of 2010

So far, 2010 has been a really mild year for movies. And yet I've already seen more than I ever have before.

For the non regular reader, I see a bunch of movies in the theater. Every January, I write about my top ten of the year. In the days prior, I try to write about the ones I see that didn't make the list. Last year I saw 45 movies in the theater - much more than I ever had before. So I declared December to be movie-a-day month. Both Lance and Nolan also participated writing about some of their favorite movies. I got some great movie suggestions from both of them. I wrote about the movies that didn't make my top 10 list. This year, I have already seen 48. There's another half-dozen movies coming out that I want to see, though I don't know how many will actually be available in the Bay Area.

As of right now, I only have seven movies that I've noted to make the top ten list. Just seven! That's preposterous. And to be honest, one or two of those were movies that I liked when I saw them much more than I do now. There's only two or three that would have made the list in previous years.

It's not that all of these movies have been bad. It's just that a lot of them have been goodish, just not great. Since a lot of the early ones are now available at home, I'm going to start writing about the movies that didn't make the list, a few at a time. Maybe you'll see something that you like. These obviously aren't full reviews but just a couple sentences.

I already wrote about The Lovely Bones in an Annoying Things of the Week blog. I hated it. Horrible movie. Don't watch it

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is an imaginative movie. It's a beautiful film. If you can, it's the type of movie that you should see on a big screen with a crisp, clear picture. The performances are pretty good too. I personally had a hard time getting into the story, which was simple yet unnecessarily convoluted. Still, I know a lot of people who thought the movie was amazing, so give it a shot.

I watched The Blind Side because it was an Oscar nominated movie. It shouldn't have been. It was better than an after school special, but not as good as a good movie. It's an Oscar nod for dumb people.

I think I went into The White Ribbon with high expectations. The saw a lot of amazing reviews. The trailer looked creepy and cool. But there just wasn't enough there for me. It was too slow and deliberate. Often slow and deliberate is a good thing because it leads you toward a payoff. But it wasn't there in this movie. Keep reading for more.

I think I liked Shutter Island more than many people. I think a lot of people felt about this what I did about The White Ribbon. They didn't buy the payoff. My difference is that this movie, whether you liked it or not, had a payoff. The other didn't. But I liked the journey in Shutter Island. It was interesting enough to hold my attention.

More to come!