Mid-Year Movie Recap plus Top 10 So Far...


Well, we're midway through 2010, and to call this year an underwhelming one movie-wise is a bit of an understatement.  Heck, until June 11, when both The Karate Kid and The A-Team managed the back-to-back feat of providing actual entertainment value, I was beginning to worry.  So was the rest of the industry.  Luckily, Toy Story 3 came out a week later, easily the best movie so far this year, and proof yet again that if Hollywood let Pixar run things, we'd all be very happy moviegoers.

The first five months in movie theaters were totally forgettable and produced not one legitimate Oscar contender for Best Picture.  There were some underrated pleasures - Kick-Ass and The Wolfman, in particular - but those movies unfairly received a bad reputation, due to poor box office and/or behind-the-scenes production hiccups, so people were hesitant to check them out.  Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up again for a surprisingly successful, though moderately liked, fourth film - the twisty, mind-bending Shutter Island.  And another oft-collaborating team, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, scored a massive hit ($300+ million in the U.S.; over $1 billion worldwide) with their so-so re-telling of Alice in Wonderland.  
3D has had an up-and-down year.  After breaking out of the box with Avatar, many jumped off the 3D love train with the poor, post-conversion effort seen in Clash of the Titans.  Suddenly, audiences realized that 3D may not be worth the $3 upcharge for every movie.  The consensus seems to be that you have to shoot the movie with 3D in mind, not convert it later.  Proof of this lies in the pudding: 3D worked for Alice in Wonderland and How to Train Your Dragon - both of which were always intended to be in 3D.  It did not work for Clash, Shrek Forever After, and last week's The Last Airbender (which critics ravaged - what the hell, M. Night?!) - all of which were converted after-the-fact.
Several trends emerged in 2010's early crop of movies.  First, the rise of the action romantic comedy: The Bounty Hunter, Killers, Knight and Day.  The idea seems to be take a pair of Hollywood stars, put the two in danger's way, and watch the sparks fly.  None of these have been very good (Knight and Day was probably the best due to Cruise), and, thankfully, audiences haven't been biting, so maybe Hollywood will wise up.  Second, independent films have had a hard time breaking out.  Usually, there are a handful of indies in any given year that will connect with audiences and become unexpected hits.  Not this year.  Even with stars like Ben Stiller (Greenberg), Kristen Stewart (The Runaways), or Jonah Hill (Cyrus), none of their movies have made more than $5 million.  Perhaps the well-received The Kids Are All Right (starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) will change that when it's released next week.  Finally, you might want to get a subscription to HBO.  Two of the best movies I've seen this year aired originally on HBO, rather than in theaters.  Temple Grandin with Claire Danes and The Special Relationship with Dennis Quaid (as Bill Clinton) and Michael Sheen (as Tony Blair) were both terrific, and easily better than most of the movies I paid $10 to see. 
And can we talk about the month of May for a moment?  May was a veritable movie wasteland in theaters.  Sure, there was Iron Man 2, but that played out more like a typical sequel, rather than a game-changing second installment like The Dark Knight or even Spider-Man 2.  I know big fans of the first Iron Man who are just apathetic to seeing the sequel.  Ouch.  The rest of May gave us one disappointing big-budget entry after another: Robin Hood, Letters to Juliet, Sex and the City 2, Prince of Persia, etc.  
There have been box office bombs: MacGruber and Jonah Hex are probably the most glaring examples.  There have been disappointments: Matt Damon's action-y mix of fact and fantasy, Green Zone, and Mel Gibson's sloooow-paced "thriller" Edge of Darkness.  And, of course, a ton of remakes: Alice in Wonderland, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Karate Kid, etc.
The worst movies of the year have all been either romantic comedies or live-action family films.  My pick for absolute worst so far: the Kristen Bell-Josh Duhamel romantic comedy When in Rome.  Also topping my "Worst Of" list: Valentine's Day, Our Family Wedding, Marmaduke, The Tooth Fairy, and J-Lo's The Back-Up Plan.  These movies all fail because the filmmakers are so condescending to their audience.  They must feel that families and romantic comedy fans are pushovers so they don't even try to give them an intelligent and worthwhile product. 
But enough bitching.  Like any true fan, I can always find a handful of movies that are worth your time and money.  The 10 movies below represent the best that 2010 has to offer so far.  Will they make my end-of-the-year top 10?  Hard to say.  Toy Story 3 is a lock, but the others?  Could go either way at this point.  I'm looking forward to Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Tron Legacy.  None of those scream Oscar to me, but the way this year is going, you just never know.  So check out my picks for the 10 Best Movies of mid-year 2010 below, and then skip to the jump to see my rundown of every movie seen this year - ranked in order.  If you're wondering what you should see, just start at the top and work your way down. 
  1. Toy Story 3 (*****)
  2. Kick-Ass (****)
  3. The Ghost Writer (****)
  4. Temple Grandin (****)
  5. How to Train Your Dragon (***1/2)
  6. The Karate Kid (****)
  7. The A-Team (***1/2)
  8. The Wolfman (***1/2)
  9. Shutter Island (***)
  10. Splice (***1/2)
  11. The Special Relationship (***1/2)
  12. A Single Man (2009) (***1/2)
  13. Iron Man 2 (***)
  14. She's Out of My League (***)
  15. The Losers (***)
  16. Cyrus (***)
  17. Greenberg (***)
  18. Daybreakers (***)
  19. The Runaways (***)
  20. MacGruber (***)
  21. Date Night (***)
  22. Shrek Forever After (***)
  23. Get Him to the Greek (**1/2)
  24. The Book of Eli (**1/2)
  25. Hot Tub Time Machine (**1/2)
  26. The Crazies (**1/2)
  27. Knight and Day (**1/2)
  28. Repo Men (**1/2)
  29. Grown Ups (**1/2)
  30. Robin Hood (**1/2)
  31. Youth in Revolt (**1/2)
  32. From Paris with Love (**1/2)
  33. Alice in Wonderland (**1/2)
  34. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (**1/2)
  35. Sex & The City 2 (**1/2)
  36. Green Zone (**)
  37. Leap Year (**)
  38. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (**)
  39. Edge of Darkness (**)
  40. The Lovely Bones (2009) (**)
  41. Clash of the Titans (**)
  42. Remember Me (**)
  43. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) (**)
  44. A Nightmare on Elm Street (**)
  45. Dear John (**)
  46. The Bounty Hunter (**)
  47. The Last Airbender (**)
  48. Killers (**)
  49. Jonah Hex (**)
  50. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (*1/2)
  51. Cop Out (*1/2)
  52. The Back-Up Plan (*)
  53. Marmaduke (*)
  54. The Tooth Fairy (*)
  55. Our Family Wedding (*)
  56. Valentine's Day (*)
  57. When in Rome (*)


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  • Go to the Century On Clark St. And see maybe 4 or 5 movies that are better then every movie you mentioned in your list. Also Restrepo at Pipers Alley.....

  • In reply to mrsbrown:

    You raise an excellent point. But what do people do when a Century is nowhere near them?

    True - I haven't seen as many independent films as I would like to. Here's why:

    (1) Here's when I see movies: Friday double feature - 10pm and midnight. The Century on Clark St. is pretty inconvenient to get to, has no midnight showings, and you have to pay $ to park there. I'll hit up Evanston every so often (another great site for independent film), but even that can be more trouble than its worth sometimes.

    (2) The movie list at the Landmark looks eerily similar to my Netflix saved queue. I may not see them in theaters, but I'll see them all by year's end. In fact, I'm looking forward to seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix "watch instantly" this week.

    (3) Unless an independent film is getting rave reviews across the board and has permeated some segment of public consciousness, I feel fine just waiting to see them on DVD. For me, it's no fun to see movies in the theater that nobody has heard of. Most people just shrug their shoulders if I were to say, "Dude, I saw Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky this weekend." They won't even ask how it was.

    (4) And this is a big one for me. Just because a movie screens at the Landmark and is independent does not mean it is automatically better than anything Hollywood has to offer. Yes, Hollywood makes a lot of crap. But when a mainstream movie is as on its game as, say, Toy Story 3 - nothing can beat it. Nothing. That includes you, Love Ranch and Cyrus - both of which are playing at Landmark.

    Having said all that, what would you recommend? I hear Restrepo is great. What are your Top 10 so far?

  • In reply to mrsbrown:

    John, I agree with you on a lot of your movies and reviews for the most part over this half of the year. However, I find it amazing that you are that interested and that hyped up to see Scott Pilgrim. That movie looks just awful. Visually, yes, interesting. But after that???? Michael Cera can only do so much. I am more looking forward to seeing him in the Arressted Development movie. Also, I find it hard to believe that Shutter Island is in your top 10. A movie that was kind of just plain jane and totally predictable. And wolfman?????

  • In reply to movieczar:

    Leave a comment...

  • In reply to movieczar:

    Hey Bill - nice to hear from you. Yeah - I am pumped about Scott Pilgrim. I think they're having a hard time selling the concept, sure, but I'm putting a lot of faith in Edgar Wright. I've loved everything I've seen him do (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, the "Don't" Grindhouse trailer), and I dig his visual style. Would I rather see the Arrested Development movie though? 1,000 times yes.

    I think Shutter Island will improve upon a second viewing. It's one of the few I actually want to revisit. That being said, the fact that it's in the Top 10 so far and I only gave it 3 stars when it came out speaks volumes to the quality of this year's movies. And let's not dump on The Wolfman too harshly. I had fun with that one! The killing rampage scenes were a kinetic, bloody adrenaline rush.

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