4000 Miles | St. Louis Rep Studio Theatre

The Best Movies of 2010
Best Hearing Aid Reviews
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(in rough order)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One
Half-Blood Prince had the most glorious cinematography I’ve seen in a blockbuster, and Goblet of Fire gave Brendan Gleeson half the movie which made me quite happy, but this first half of Deathly Hallows is by far the fastest in the series. No subplots, no biding time; Harry and company know what they have to do and by God they’re going to do it. The problem with Deathly Hallows is, I can’t think of anything that happened. There were events, there were plot points, certainly, but for what? Or to what end? Harry, Ron, and Hermoine pretty much end the movie just as they started; such is the case with two-parters. I won’t deny it’s an enjoyable ride. The opening chase is spectacular, the coffee shop shootout was an unexpected delight, the Ministry infiltration is funny but still exciting; all wonderful scenes. But what were they for? (trailer)

I’ve already written about this film at length, so I won’t again, but it’s certainly worth a viewing. (trailer)

The Ghost Writer
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Roman Polanski knows tension. He understands tension, so when he has the chance to direct a mystery, you know you’re in good hands. The Ghost Writer (like Polanski’s The Ninth Gate, which is a great movie until the last twenty minutes) is a very shadowy tale of The Last Honest Man fighting deception and sabotage with every question he asks. That’s it, that’s all the hero does wrong, and God does he suffer for it. The masochistic quest for truth and the power of information are two tropes I’ll never get tired of, so The Ghost Writer is my kind of movie. A taut thriller, a well-paced mystery, a beautiful ending. If not for Inception, it’d have the year’s best final shot. Never did papers blowing in the wind mean so much. That’s Polanski’s talent as a filmmaker: showing you just enough to convince you something horrible is happening. (trailer)

The Social Network
The Social Network is a great film, but a smug film. It has a very conspicuous air of importance about itself and if not for the great script and performances, I’d dismiss it as pretentious. But I’ll admit it deserves that air of importance. Yes, the lines are puffed up with wordy, unrealistic, Dialogue-with-a-capital-D, but I won’t argue those lines don’t sound really, really good. Aaron Sorkin wrote a great script; he made computer code exciting, so power to him. David Fincher does a great job making the everyday seem otherworldly (his big and possibly only claim-to-fame, in my opinion), and Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, and Andrew Garfield’s Glorious Head of Hair show impeccable timing, style, and emotion, respectively. But the reason this movie isn’t at the top of my list is its protagonist. It’s hard to adore a movie with such an unlikable hero. I just wanted to see him fall; maybe that’ll be the sequel. (trailer)

The most un-alien alien movie ever made; a bizarro District 9. Monsters is a bold movie, no doubt about it; if you popped into the story without any context, you wouldn’t know it’s sci-fi. It’s two ordinary people trekking across a quarantined (but beautiful) Mexico, sneaking up the alien-infested coast to the States. The locations are gorgeous – like a tropical War of the Worlds set – and the dialogue is some of the most realistic I’ve heard. Audiences expecting slam-bang action and human vs. alien battles will be very, very disappointed, but kudos to writer/director/cinematographer Gareth Edwards for making a helluva movie by avoiding the elephant in the room.

44 Inch Chest
It’s not the Guy Ritchie glossy goody bag of crime and punishment. It’s a meditation; it’s psychological. This is a movie that was still in my mind a week later, and I can’t quite articulate why. It’s just a hypnotic and cryptic story. It brings together five of the best British actors working today with a beautiful script that teeters between contemplative and snarling, with a story that only progresses internally but never drops the pace. It’s the same brand of conflicted, angsty weirdness that made Sexy Beast so bizarre. I’ll be honest: I’m having trouble writing about it. It’s a strange little movie, and one I can’t help but admire. I just can’t explain why. (trailer)

The King’s Speech (late addition to the list)
A masterful drama. All the praise is going to Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, and rightly so. Firth succeeds with what must’ve been a trying character, with whom every line of dialogue bears an extra challenge; his stutter is impeccable and painful to watch, but far from off-putting. He plays as sympathetic what could easily be an insufferable character. Geoffrey Rush gets to work his strength as devious but playful, and exchanges between the two characters never fall into a lull; there’s an energy to all of their conversations, aided by an incredible script that constantly and effortlessly makes the switch from light-hearted to solemn without sacrificing any momentum. But the film’s shining scene is the titular speech. It’s an incredible moment of triumph, a true climax; it couldn’t have been acted, filmed, written, or scored any better. That speech makes you want to stand up and applaud. (trailer)

The Crazies
A genre picture done well. Not quite a zombie flick, not really an epidemic drama. A comfortable middle. Who knows what it says about me, but I love to see the world going to hell in a handcart, and The Crazies is a very well-orchestrated spiral into chaos. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a fan of Timothy Olyphant and (the vastly underrated) Joe Anderson, but The Crazies has too much to offer in such a modest story to be left off the list. It has more tension than scares – the sign of a great horror movie in my opinion – and the payoff is always a clever one. There’s more to horror than something jumping in front of the camera. The Crazies is Exhibit A; just watch the pitchfork scene. (trailer)

A second glimpse into the dizzying world of Amelie. The hero is a man this time around and the story is not of love, but revenge against two corporations, and, in other movies, the subject would be a heavy one, but nothing is heavy in this film’s universe. Everything is beautiful and colorful and fantastic, and it’s all so real; it’s not fantasy. It’s intoxicating. It’s a whimsical French Wonderland and it’s not a world you ever want to leave. I’ll be a big man and admit that Amelie – while it’s a great movie – is quite depressing when you realize relationships aren’t as fairy-tale perfect in the real world. Micmacs doesn’t need such a disclaimer. There’s no reality tugging at your enjoyment of this vibrant little world. (trailer)

Toy Story 3
I did not go into Toy Story 3 expecting an escape flick, but that’s certainly what it was. It’s a beautiful thing when a movie’s characters are already so well-defined that you can go distances with the story and the emotion; that’s this movie’s strength. It goes from coming-of-age tale to prison break to resurrection and reincarnation more gracefully than any live-action film I can remember with similar roller-coaster storylines. It is a very bold script for a kid’s movie, but it delivers like none I’ve seen before. Yes, I got teary at the end; it’s the third Pixar outing in a row to get me misty-eyed. THAT is filmmaking prowess. When you can go into an animated film’s second sequel and still have enough material to make the audience cry, you’re doing something right. The Pixar team has the best batting average of anyone in the business, and Toy Story 3 shows why. The guys know how to make movies. (trailer)

Ah, Inception. What can I say? Every word of praise this movie deserves has already been said. It’s clever. It’s very clever. It’s stunningly imaginative without losing its foothold in reality; a hard balance to maintain. There are plot holes, yes, there’s no denying them, but for me it doesn’t matter. Plot holes don’t stand a chance. The film doesn’t have to be airtight; it makes enough smart moves to overlook any slip-ups in the mechanics of the story. The movie does too many things right – gloriously right – for the wrongs to win out. Christopher Nolan knows what looks good; he knows how to make a crowdpleaser. He is the clockwork filmmaker. His movies just work: all the parts come together and act as one and the film ticks along as a near-flawless machine. It’s already left its mark on pop culture. The hallway scene? Iconic. The concept? Meme-worthy. The BRAHHHHHHMMM? It’s getting to be as recognizable as the Jaws theme. And that ending? Best ending of the last ten years. You couldn’t have closed that movie any other way; it wouldn’t have fit. That is precision, and that is greatness. (trailer)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A polarizing movie, but I fall in favor of it. I left Scott Pilgrim like a spectator leaving the circus: overjoyed at a spectacle that knows it’s a spectacle. No pretense of art, nothing to take serious, just a hell of a show. The movie is kinetic: that’s the word that first came into my head. If Inception is a ticking clock, Scott Pilgrim is a Rube Goldberg machine. The motion never stops, the pace never slows, the action never ceases. Smash cuts, rapid pans, clever edits; the filmmaking is a joyously amped display of tricks and twists. But Scott Pilgrim’s strength is its flow, its consistency. If I wanted a quick pick-me-up, there’s no go-to scene I’d fast forward to. There’s no rotating hallway fight scene where the movie shoots its wad. It’s just one quick-witted vignette after another, filled not only with genius sardonic dialogue I wish I’d written, but absurd little details that sound flat on paper (Todd opening the door; Scott’s “wow” being cut off; “Bread makes you fat?”) but some way, somehow come to vivid life onscreen. They’re moments you couldn’t write into a script, but at times they outsmart the dialogue, and that’s saying something. To paraphrase a critic’s review of Juno: This is filmmaking on a high wire. It is, in my opinion, the best movie of the year. (trailer)

4000 Miles | St. Louis Rep Studio Theatre
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