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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 2010 Summer Retrospective

My Top 10 Favorite Films of the Summer

So we’ve reached the end of 2010’s summer movie season, and although many are in agreement that this hasn’t been the best summer season, I still found enough films to make a solid list of what I would consider to be my favorite films of the summer. Unfortunately the summer movie season cut off just short of the release of Machete; however, there are still a few wild genre films that managed to make it in here.

10. MacGruber/The Other Guys/Get Him to the Greek

Three big comedies here, all of them filled with some very funny moments. None of them, I would say, quite cracked the realms of classic comedy territory, although I can still say that I plan to watch them all again. MacGruber was possibly the most disappointing in terms of how well it did, given the positive response it received critically. The Other Guys was a nice bounce back for Ferrell after 2009’s Land of the Lost. And Get Him to the Greek managed to both fill my Apatow quota and provide me with some great songs from Russell Brand’s Aldus Snow character.

9. Predators

This was a pleasing call-back to the original 1987 action/horror classic. Boasting a large cast and Robert Rodriguez’s producing/story credit, this film managed to be a nice slice of genre fun. It wasn’t perfect (Lawrence Fishburne basically stopped the movie dead), but it had a nice R-rating, plenty of references to the original, and enough cool moments to keep me happy.

8. The A-Team

Much of my summer seemed to revolve around The A-Team. This movie just looked like a lot of silly fun, and it turned out to be just that. Director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smoking Aces) managed to add another solid film to his canon. The film’s cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, and “Rampage” Jackson were all great together as the titular A-Team, making the film frequently funny, while staging some of the most ridiculous action scenarios of the year. If The Losers was a fun B-movie, this was a fun B-Plus movie.

7. The Karate Kid

This film may get the “Biggest Surprise” of the summer as well. I was not alone in being very much in the opposite corner against the remake of The Karate Kid, but I ate my words whole-heartedly, as it turned about to be a very well handled film. It certainly helps that the films success was due to a combination of China’s cooperation and Will Smith’s power standing in the world, as the film does a great job of using a solid formula, staying true to the spirit of the original, and having some wonderful cinematography. The film was way too long at 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it was certainly very enjoyable throughout.

6. Iron Man 2

I really would have liked to put this film higher on the list. As many have noticed, the first sequels of a majority of superhero flicks tend to outdo their predecessors, but unfortunately, Iron Man 2 was no Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight. Even with a ridiculously talented cast that included Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, the movie still didn’t quite live up to what it could have been. That being said, it is still very entertaining (I would go as far to say that it at least matched the first film). The action is great, Tony Stark is still the man, and it certainly paves the way for The Avengers.

5. Splice

Things got really weird here, as Splice turned out to be both a great body-horror movie and possibly the best dark comedy of the summer. Paying homage to David Cronenberg’s The Fly, among other films, director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) managed to make a film that was original, disturbing, and disturbingly funny at many times throughout the film. Certainly not for everyone, but this was a delightfully different kind of movie to enjoy.

4. Piranha 3-D

Speaking of films that are disturbing, disturbingly funny, and not for everyone – Piranha 3-D was pretty much the most over-the-top film released, that could still be considered amazing. I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but this list has featured mostly flicks that call back to the 80s, and Piranha certainly fits the bill of 80s-style, campy goodness. Featuring ridiculous amounts of boobs and gore, this is a complete hilarious horror throwback feature that knows exactly what kind of film it is, and instead of apologizing for it, the films spits a 3-D, bloodied and bitten off penis at you.

3. Toy Story 3

While most of the other films are fairly interchangeable on the list, these final three were the clear winners of the summer. Starting with Toy Story 3, this was a film that I was expecting to just be a lot of fun, after experiencing some more emotionally heavy features from Pixar in the previous years; however, despite the great amount of warmth and humor coming from seeing these characters back in action again, the film still managed to hit some solid dramatic and thrilling beats towards its end, once again solidifying Pixar as master storytellers.

2. Inception

Here we have the film anticipated by everyone, director Christopher Nolan’s Sci-Fi/Action follow up The Dark Knight. What more can I say beyond the fact that this was a brilliant film. Original, exciting, complex, but never too cerebral to leave you in the dust, Inception managed to be everything I could have hoped for. The action was great, the visual effects were mind-blowing, and the story and concept were wonderfully intriguing. The fantastic cast certainly helped the proceedings, as everyone fell right in line with the awesome film stemming from Nolan’s mind. Its massive success only helps in paving the way for more original films to head our way more frequently.

1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Of course, big fun action, dreamy films are nice, but then the comic epic of epic epicness came out in the form of Scott Pilgrim. I’m pretty sure anyone who knows me could have seen this coming, but that’s not going to stop me from heaving unabashed love for this film on top of its lukewarm success, box office-wise. It’s a shame, because here is a film from director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), who is at the top of his game, working with an immensely talented, young cast, adapting a comic full of great wit, humor, action, and references; and delivering all of that into an extremely well made theatrical feature. It’s a great romantic comedy, it’s a great action film, and it’s a great comic book movie. My favorite film of the summer and it will certainly stand high on my list come the end of the year.


My Top 5 Worst Films of the Summer

I think we all know where this list is going, but here’s a batch of some of the bad films I had to sit through during the summer. While I know there were other films that may have been worse than some the ones listed here, I fortunately didn’t make the choice to see everything.

5. The Last Exorcism

To be fair, I don’t think this film is that bad, it’s really hear just to pad out the list, but I was still not thrilled by this handheld, horror flick. It wasn’t scary (either during the flick or after the fact), there wasn’t much excuse made for the documentary crew to keep filming when it did (and this thing had a score for some reason), and the ending was pretty terrible.

4. Shrek Forever After

I really hope this is the final nail in the coffin for the Shrek franchise. Talk about beating a dead Ogre, the series has just lost all its charm at this point. Some Donkey and Puss one-liners here or there are alright, but nothing stands out to make this film memorable.

3. Grown Ups

Some how, Adam Sandler’s SNL comedy version of The Expendables failed to deliver the one thing that you would hope a film full of funny people could pull off – comedy. I wouldn’t have guessed that the best lines would come from David Spade or that I’d feel sorry for Rob Schneider, but some how this film managed to pull that off. I like me a fun Adam Sandler comedy, but this just felt like one pretty lazy effort from him and the boys. I’m sure they had fun making it, but I didn’t have fun hearing the 27th “Kevin James is fat joke” or watching Chris Rock waste his talent here.

2. Jonah Hex

Of course, now we have the heavy hitters. Starting with Jonah Hex, which was amazingly bad. I really like Josh Brolin, but man did he saddle up to the wrong starring role this time around. He has to muster his way through some ugly make-up and cowboy one-liners, while this poorly constructed film makes sure to tell us whether or not Megan Fox could play a convincing whore. I would have been way more curious to see what the original Nevaldine/Taylor directed version would have looked like, but instead, I got to see this mess of a film. Of course that mess was no match for…

1. The Last Airbender

Oh boy, I have already written 1000+ plus words on this vacuum of suck, but no I have to provide a few more. Somehow, Shyamalan managed to top The Happening and, this time, take the hopes of children with him. Working as writer/director/producer, Shyamalan has made it easy for everyone to blame him as the main reason for why this movie just flat-out sucked. To think this is supposed to be the first part of a trilogy, I can only hope that this series can’t get any worse…


My Top 5 Independent/Limited Release Films of the Summer

Despite the big blockbuster-styled films not all achieving greatness this summer, I did managed to see a number of smaller films over the summer, and many of them were very good.

5. Winter’s Bone

Already pegged with a lot of Oscar buzz, Winter’s Bone was a terrific drama, infused with some noir sensibilities. The performances are fantastic and its setting in the Ozarks was the perfect container for this great mystery.

4. Cyrus

A fantastic, smaller scaled comedy with John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei. Humorous and awkward, this film was a different sort of love triangle that benefited from strong performances and very subtle work done to keep it all effectively well made.

3. Micmacs

Every time I see a film from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, The City of Lost Chirldren) I am memorized by the amount of imagination he is able to put onto screen. His films are always quirky and fun, all in the right sort of ways, and they benefit further from having well constructed stories and a mix of intriguing sorts of characters. This film was no different, applying a sort of Yojimbo quality to his French, comedic/revenge story.

2. Animal Kingdom

Another fine film. Animal Kingdom is a great crime drama, based around a family in Melbourne, Australia. The film is deliberate in its pace and construction, features great performances, and unfolds its story in all the right ways to make it both interesting and thrilling. This film needs to spread wider and be seen by more people.

1. The Kids Are All Right

I really love this film. It’s sharply funny, well made, and greatly acted. Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, and Mark Ruffalo are all in top form here. The story functions in a great way to be both very funny but also hit the dramatic beats quite well. There are no false moments here and everything comes together in just the right way. Sure to be one of my favorite by the end of the year as well.

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