Sunday, 12 December 2010

You MUST Know What I Think! Best of 2010

Well, it is quickly nearing the end of the year, snow is falling, presents are being bought, and end of year lists are about to spring up.

Get ready for it, for I am going to add my very own list to an already overpopulated area. There is no real reason I need to do this besides the fact that I just enjoy putting my opinion about films out there. What follows is not the opinion of someone reviewing professionally or for the people. These are simply my thoughts and feelings on the films that have been released over the last year. I like to think that some of my views are different than the general consensus and it would be interesting to see what people think of a bit of a peculiar sorting.

Looking back on it, it has been a bad year for horror, and not been particularly fantastic for cinema in general (with exceptions), which is why there are only 18 films on the list. I was hoping to do 20, but what can you do? I don't want to discuss films I didn't enjoy!

I won't lie, there are MANY films I haven't seen yet (Despicable Me and Mastermind being some very blatant examples) and since it isn't the end of the tear yet, there are a few still to go that I am very excited about (I'm looking at you, Tron Legacy). This list really stands as my favourite films this year so far.

So, sit back, get your reading glasses on and enjoy the ramblings of a sore-backed film geek.

18. BURIED
A fantastic film centered around the basic premise of a man being kidnapped by terrorists and buried alive in a coffin. The hook of the film is that we never leave the coffin. All our contact with the outside world is done through a cell phone and any setup and exposition is given to us in real time (so we only know what we are told). Lagging in parts and with some questionable plot points, the film is tense, heart-wrenching and just a good idea. Not something I'll probably view again anytime soon, but definitely worth the time I gave to it.

17. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (First Sequence)
An extremely disgusting concept (a mad scientist surgically attaching three people together mouth to ass to make a human digestive track, or human centipede) presented in a shockingly conservative way. You watch a film like this so you can go 'I watched a film where people had their asses sown to people's mouths and had to eat their shit', to which most people go 'ugg...', but those who have seen it know better. There is very little in terms of gore or gross-out moments, which I know some people hated the film for, but I personally think this makes it that much more reputable. It's well acted and seriously shot, with a story that keeps you with it fairly well. Think Misery, but in German and with a mad scientist.

16. KICK-ASS
Good and fun, and I actually liked Nicolas Cage in this, which is a rare feat for me. The basic story is a kid trying to be a real life superhero, but ends up beaten for it, with ironically gives him nerve damage, which is science for invincibility. He goes back to crime-fighting to find himself over his head between the mafia and a revenge-bent vigilante. Not a perfect film and not the best kid superhero film of the year (see below for that), but it got the adrenaline going and dealt with the idea of a superhero in the real world in an accessive way. There was some controversy over the 10-year old girl character using the word 'cunt' and having her dress in revealing outfits, but I actually didn't notice this when I saw the film. My attention was captivated more by the intensely unexpected graphic violence she commits. I gotta say, I am shocked at what the 'moral keepers' were in uproar about. In my view, their priorities were completely wrong. Also, films are films and are not real, so stop getting so uptight over violence/sex/swearing.

15. CLASH OF THE TITANS
Leave me alone, I enjoyed it. It's dumb, but it's fun dumb. There's bad acting and a kind of predictable plot, but there are also fantastic giant monsters and epic battles. It's like the kind of story you'd hear around the campfire. It's fast-paced, it has all the usual elements needed, it's in no way complicated, and it has Liam Neeson! When I want to switch off and enjoy something, this is it. On a side note, I saw it in 3D, which was such a waste of money. The 2 dimensions of the DVD are more than enough for this lad.

14. PREDATORS
I'm more into the Alien franchise, but will always have a place in my heart for Predator. The idea was that this would be to what Aliens was to Alien, but it doesn't really do this. What it does do is present you with some fun. It's the definition of a B-movie really. The filmmakers obviously love the original films and give them nods, which any fan will appreciate. I'm quite a big Robert Rodriguez fan, so that helps. The film lags considerably in the middle, and I don't know if I ever really buy Adrian Brody as a soldier, but it doesn't matter. It has one of my favourite openings of all time (abrupt, engaging, bold) and a decent climax. Visually, it's also easy to enjoy (probably the nicest stuff since Avatar).


13. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Brilliant soundtrack and good script, but this film just doesn't live up to the hype people had for it. The story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg really felt like half a film to me. It was pointed out to me that since it is a true story, there really isn't any end yet, but as a film, it felt kept building and building and just ended unsatisfactory (insert sex joke). In fairness to the film, the acting is brilliant, as is the cinematography, and it certainly didn't feel like a two hour running time. It just feels like it was a good film that could have been great if it had delivered on what it had been setting up. Still recommended (it's No. 14 and in a list of my favourite films, duh!).


12. IRON MAN 2
Robert Downey Jr. Need I say more? Not really an intelligent film, and is borderline cluttered in terms of characters and plots, but very enjoyable. Also, probably Mickey Rourke's only good role since The Wrestler.


11. SAW 3D
The final film in the bloody franchise. It's a massive step above the 2 previous films and has some genuinely stomach turning moments (and that's something coming from me!). The opening scene is nothing short of epic, and the plot throughout the film just worked for me. It's pretty forumalic in comparison to previous installments, but has enough added substance to keep you hooked. There were also some very good jumps, which I had all but given up on from modern horror films. The only downfalls for me was the sadly predictable outcome of the people in the traps (honestly, would some variation have killed you?) and the big ending feels somewhat rushed and tacked on. Still, one of the few good horrors of the year.


10. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE
Right, these films are as braindead as the zombies in them (wow, that may be the height of my wit). The film delivers on the vast epic zombie idea that was covered poorly in the second installment in the franchise. Characters are cliché, the plot 'borrows' heavily from other films and you can't really relate to these characters who seem too dumb to open a cereal box, but fuck it. Milla Jovovich is shooting zombies and other assorted creatures while A Perfect Circle plays in the background. I enjoy these films a lot, but it has always bugged me that such a brilliant scary horror video game inspired these mainly sci-fi centered action fares.


9. INCEPTION
The big 'intelligent' film of the year. When you think about it for a few moments, there are quite a few plot holes and inconsistencies, but it is a high concept idea that pretty much pays off. It's Heat meets A Nightmare On Elm Street, if you will. Recommended, but beware, a film that could have been a classic undermines itself horrible in the final few frames.


8. THE A-TEAM
I was fearing seeing this film, but oh God, how wrong I was. Based on the 80s TV show of the same name, the film is completely in the spirit of its source material. The characters feel like modern day representations of those that we have known and loved for years. It knows it's a throwback, and it plays it perfectly, as opposed to The Dukes of Hazzard, which was insulting in its stupidity. There was a triple threat of action films with this, The Expendables and The Losers, and this just delivers. Like the original show, it isn't going to break new ground, but I'll be damned if it isn't fun to watch Hannibal chomp down on the cigar once again.


7. THE CRAZIES
Based on the George Romero film that I am quite a fan of, this film goes the Dawn Of The Dead approach and is only loosely based on its original counterpart. It's kind of like what The Happening should have been. There is a pandemic on a massive scale, and what people do to keep away from it is just engaging. Easily one of the best horror remakes out there, and I think it crosses over into the action genre to become accessible. It'll probably be forgotten in the mass of remakes that are in the market, but it is beautifully shot and well executed. Its style feels big budget yet quaint at the same time (surely intentional, owing to its setting). Easy, but intelligent on a certain level at the same time.


6. PIRANHA 3D
If you are a horror film fan and haven't seen this film, get your hands on it now! See my previous blog for more thoughts on it.


5. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD
THE best superhero film of the year, hands down. I hated the trailers and wasn't familiar with the comics, so I can relate to why no one else saw this film either, but Ally and I took a chance and saw it. The second the opening logo was in 8-bit video game style, I knew I'd have to review my opinion. There is no other film like this. Director Edgar Wright made something new and that should be seen by everyone. Whereas Kick-Ass is kind of riské, this is quite accessible. It's insane in its style, its music, its characters, everything! When I left the cinema, I suddenly knew I had another Serenity on my hands ie. a fantastic film that no one will see. I know it bombed and to be honest, the fanboys, who campaigned for it and the studio (and Edgar Wright) depended on to see it, failed the film. It should have at least been Zombieland levels of attention. Again, I blame the inactive fanboys. And the trailer. The trailer sucked.


4. SHUTTER ISLAND
I have not seen any films this year as much as I have seen this film. It has so many layers and more things become apparent on repeated viewings. It's actually pretty predictable, but the filmmakers know this and don't care. You are there for the loop-the-loop, not when you exit the cart. The film feels flat visually in places, which ties in with the era and contents of the story. It's a film that has all the hallmarks of a forgettable piece of drivel (see Gothika) with its asylum setting and missing persons plot, but Scorsese shows why he is the master. This is a film that people will watch years from now and go wow.


3. THE GHOST
Polanski shows everyone how it's done. This is a thriller in the classic sense of the term. There is no big action, no people going from being ordinary joes to James Bond for the sake of the plot, and is utterly believable. Pierce Brosnan pretty much plays Tony Blair while Ewan McGregor is a journalist ghostwriting his autobiography. Ewan is replacing a previous writer who died under mysterious circumstances and uncovers a potential conspiracy. The acting is solid, the plot is griping and Roman takes risks visually that new filmmakers could learn a thing or two from. One very long shot towards the end had me so tense I may have strained a muscle. The film is thrilling in a captivating way, not a boom-boom way, and is all the better for it.


2. SPLICE
Right, I have a soft spot for director Vincenzo Natali, so I was always going to enjoy this film, but reviews and responses were so positive it looked like this was going to be his massive crossover hit and bring him to the big time of filmmaking. It didn't. The film centres around a couple of scientists creating a creature that is intended to be used for livestock replacement, but ends up being something far more interesting, which they decide they must protect. It gets much more complicated in all the right ways from there. I don't know if it's the fact it is a sci-fi horror or that it bares a somewhat similar plot to Species, but people have missed out. Spice is intelligent, brilliant technically, and asks moral questions of the viewer. David Cronenberg seems to have moved away from making body horror films now, and this is what is taking up the mantel, adequately, I may add. I don't want to say too much about it as I think this film (as with all the films on the list) should be experienced without spoilers. It's actually a bit like a modern day Frankenstein movie, adapted for the modern age. It poses questions we all should make ourselves think about, all the while giving us a brilliant film that can easily be enjoyed. Get Santa to bring you this, seriously.


1. TOY STORY 3
Was it ever going to be anything else, really? I saw the premiere of this film at the Galway Film Fleadh and met the writer afterwards. It doesn't happen often (unless you believe certain people) but this film had me on the verge of tears so often. Pixar deliver, we know that. The previous films were great, this one was bound to be at least alright. We should count our blessings that we got a film that obviously had a lot of thought go into it. This is not a sequel, it's the end of the story. I think what makes it so powerful is that those of us who grew up with Toy Story are roughly the same age as the toys owner Andy, and they are OUR toys in the film. We were kids during the first film. We were the teens beginning to grow out of our toys in the second. Now we are the people on the verge of adulthood having to decide what to do with our childhood. This is powerful stuff and is surely going to win an Oscar. Never at any time do you feel the filmmakers are trying to tug on your heartstrings. The characters are being themselves, with the filmmakers really just being a means to an end (I know that's not how it works, but bare with me). Change is difficult for anyone, and in these days, the world can be such an ominous place. It is whether or not the innocence of childhood is decimated or lovingly let go that this film really concerns itself with. There are reviews a plenty of the plot and what have you, but this is what I care about. This film hit home and is beautiful. Pixar once again prove cartoons are not just brain fodder for kids. Miss this film at your own risk.