Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best and worst of 2010

As I have been want to do I am doing eleven movies because I can. There were several I still have not gotten to see (EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP) and several that I liked a great deal but for whatever reason just cannot force myself to put in the top ten (BLACK SWAN I love you, but something, I am not sure what, is keeping you out of this room). So without further admonishment here we go… And I am going to alienate everyone and discredit my list right from the start…

11) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. - Horror fans have come to the table with a hatred of remakes that is astounding and I am no different. Especially when Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company is involved.  But I am convinced that the hatred for this remake is really directed at the fact it was made AT ALL rather than at the movie itself. Because out of all the horror franchises that have been remade this one was the boldest. Dark, brooding, ugly and returned the Freddy Kruger character to his horrific roots this film treads real life horror that most films would never touch.  It genuinely gets under the skin and the performances are almost uniformly solid to really good considering the tone of the material. Not perfect by a long shot, but so far above the awful reviews it gets, someone had to acknowledge it.

10) CENTURION - Director Neil Marshall legs go of the camp nature of his last film DOOMSDAY and goes for broke in this brutal sword and sandal epic that redefines how the genre should be done. I know that douche who made the CHAINSAW remake is doing CONAN right now. After seeing this it has become completely apparent who SHOULD being doing that film. Violent, dark, uncompromising and always exciting, this is how actions movies are supposed to be.

9) KICK ASS - I initially didn’t want to see this. The trailers underwhelmed me to say the least. I thought it looked like more of the post-modern, annoying teenage bullshit that makes me want to vomit. That hip, “this is so cool, that even the movie itself understands how cool it is” kind of crap (SCOTT PILGRIM anyone?) that sells movies to the kids.  Instead we get a vicious, hilarious and most importantly deeply heartfelt rip into what it would be like to really be a superhero AND a teenager. Surprisingly adept at both the action and emotional range needed to pull this off, KICK ASS stands up to multiple viewings which is more than most movies these days can do.

8) MACHETE - Robert Rodriguiz’s long awaited follow up to PLANET TERROR makes good on the  grindhouse content by delivering the goriest, most violent studio movie, possibly ever, but also jabs middle America in the gut with savage political satire too. Like the great exploitation movies of yesteryear MACHETE takes a modern political issue and wraps it in a blood spurting, lingerie clad bit of confection so it goes down easier. Any movie that finally gives Danny Trejo the starring role he deserves needs recognition, and thankfully MACHETE kicks ass.

7) THE SOCIAL NETWORK - David Fincher grabs hold of one of the year's best scripts and cuts loose on why we all are so socially disconnected, while longing to connect. A brilliant look at how social interaction has dissolved, changed and transmuted into something that each one of us pretends we are, but aren’t quite in reality. Jesse Eisenberg gives a career defining performance as Mark Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook as we watch him climb from a narcissistic and possibly autistic college genius dweeb, to a man alone, surrounded by those he has alienated. Sad, brilliant and very socially aware.

6) BROOKLYN’S FINEST - The most overlooked movie of the year. Seriously did anyone bother to see this at all? This interlocking trio of crime stories is director Antoine Fuqua’s sort of follow up to his critically well regarded TRAINING DAY. But this is better than that film in every single way from just general storyline to the trio of lead performances by Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and Ethan Hawk. Wesley Snipes jumps back into dramatic ground with great perf as well. Gritty and realistic, I simply do not understand why this went unnoticed.

5) IT CAME FROM KUCHAR - Jennifer M. Kroot made this inspiring documentary about George and Mike Kuchar the original underground American filmmakers. Both of them are still kicking around making movies and art after all these years, and luckily for us, and this film, both are hilarious an unique personalities. I can barely think of another movie about making movies that was this interesting, inspiring and flat out entertaining.  A huge part of that is the Kuchar’s work as it is just outright a ball to see, and the film is overflowing with clips of their movies. But Root shows a real flair for getting the boys to talk and share, so we feel like we have known them for years by the time it is all over. 

4) THE HORSEMAN - This ultra low budget Australian revenge film is one of the leanest and meanest movies I have seen in years. Lots of people call movies throw backs to the 70’s, but this truly is. Put this side by side some of the classic 70’s revenge action films and it would fit along side perfectly. With pitch perfect performances, tightly wound direction, and constantly mounting violence until it becomes almost completely unbearable. So rare do we get movies with real balls. This one has them, then tortures the shit out of them as the lead character looks for the people who put his daughter into a porn movie and let her over-dose. Gritty revenge fueled stuff.

3) WINNEBAGO MAN - Jack Rebney is known as the angriest man in the world thanks to his now famous video of him cursing up a storm behind the scenes of an industrial video shoot about Winnebago’s. Now twenty some years later filmmaker Ben Steinbauer has set out to find out who this man is and how he feels about his celebrity on the web. What he discovers is a man who has no idea what has happened and has a deep contempt for modern society at large. A bond forms between them as Ben pushed Jack to come down off his (literal) mountain and face his new fandom. This documentary starts out crazy when exploring the world of Viral Videos but ends up being  deeply heartwarming as this hard man discovers life. I got choked up man.

2) INCEPTION - A summer blockbuster that is a thinking man’s action movie. A layered stream of conscious movie about dreams, meaning of dreams and letting go of personal pain that haunts us. Some people felt the movie was longer than it needed to be, but I was held rapt for the entire running from beginning to end. And felt like not a moment was extraneous or wasted.  It has become cool to bash on the movie as it was hyped pretty heavily, but it was the rare movie that the hype was all warranted and the final movie was as good as promised.

1) ENTER THE VOID - Gasper Noe finds god. Well, not really but he takes a hard long look at what he might consider the after life with a huge helping of DMT hallucinations and being guided by the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. When our lead character Oscar is shot  by the police we journey with him as he transcends his body . We travel through his memories of childhood, then even further into the lives of his friends as they try to survive in his absence.  Trippy, weird, and transcendent this movie covers ground no other movie has done before. Some of it is hard as hell to get through as it challenges you to stick with it. But the last ten minutes of the movie pull it all together for a wrap up that is at once emotionally enrapturing and still down to Earth. This is one of those rare movies that soon as it was over I was exhausted, but at  the same time thrilled and wanted to watch it over again to see what I missed. I also found myself wanting to show it to other people. Clearly the earmarks of a fine feature film. 

Usually I have at least a top five list of the worst movies of the year. But honestly I didn't bother with too many movies this year I thought would suck. I felt like I didn't have time. There were couple of disappointments though.

1) THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE - After much hype about how hardcore and twisted this movie was I had prepared myself for some seriously outrageous horror. I hadn't prepared myself for one of the worst written film in recent memory. Even among no budget, indie horror this was a terrible script. Even taken at complete camp value the writing sapped it of any kind of enjoyment for me. I give it credit for pulling the trigger and actually making the title monstrosity at the midpoint of the film. But then the director can't figure out what to do with it. So the Human Centipede does such horrific things like fetch the paper or lick the doctors boots. Truly an embarrassment.

2) SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD - Loads of people love this movie. Most of them aged 25 or below. Which is fine, it is aimed directly at the demographic that has grown up glued to the video games as a form of communication. I can't rightfully call it a "bad" film as it is very well made and does exactly what it sets out to do. I just found it to be horrendously annoying for 95% of the running time with characters that I either A. couldn't give a shit about because they were vacuous assbags without souls, or B. would rather see getting run over by heavy machinery. The fact that the screenwriter nor director can't figure out if the main character is fighting for which  lead girl or why until the final act when the film's faux feminism flies right out the window so the lead character can save them anyway is just relentlessly confused at best. Bah.This thing isn't for me or old farts like me anyway. 

3) PREDATORS - Another movie that isn't rightly a "bad" movie. It just isn't a very exciting one. The first half is sluggish with rather ill defined characters (peopled with actors that deserve better). Then goes to batshit hell when Lawrence Fishburne shows up and chews up the scenery worse than Brother Theodore on a meth bender. Throw into the mix that twerp from THAT 70's SHOW in a completely unconvincing turn as a psychopath ( a plot twist you see coming from, well the moment he is introduced) and the movie feels way longer than it is. It finds its footing during the last reel for the final showdown but by then I was not caring so much.

4) WRONG SIDE OF TOWN - David 'The Demon Director of the most Brutal Film Ever Made CHAOS" Defalco returns to directing with this urban action flick staring all wrestlers. The biggest problem the film faces is that lump of petrified wood Rob Van Dam is the lead hero. He can't act, he has NO screen presence and when ever he is on screen the space around him threatens to be sucked into the void. His co-star is fellow wrestler Dave Bautista (who is featured prominently on the DVD cover) and he has significantly more on screen charisma. But is unfortunately hardly in the film. It is serviceable directed but never rises above the crap leads and terrible script to be more than mildly painful to sit through.

So that was 2010.

Reviews © Andy Copp

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