Kubryk’s Top 10 of 2010

The one thing about 2010 that stands out to me the most was that it was a year filled with a lot of films that are shrug worthy. It was not as enjoyable as years past because this year in film was remarkably top heavy. There were a staggering amount of great films, but the floor underneath them was quite thin of good but not great films. It wasn’t all that hard for me to narrow it down to just 10 films, as this was not an exceptionally loaded year for film.

That’s the one thing that keeps coming back to me. There weren’t as many films this year that screamed “I HAVE TO SEE THAT” as there has been in years past. All of the malaise and recycling finally caught up with Hollywood as the dearth of original ideas finally manifested itself with a weak box office boosted by the gimmick of enhanced ticket prices with 3D.

But there was enough good stuff that came out this year that I can look at 15 films that could hold up in any year. That’s the crux of it; this year’s cream of the crop is just as good as it’s ever been. The very top 25 films of the 1010 of the 167 I did see this year were as good, perhaps better, than any of the last 10. It’s just the level of quality declined extremely quickly after that. I’ve never been this disappointed wrapping up a year than I have with 2010.

Stay tuned, as every couple hours another member of the Inside Pulse Movies Staff will have their thoughts on the year cinematic 2010. Every couple of hours a new staff member’s Top 10 will pop up for your viewing pleasure.

Honorable Mention: The Films That Struck a chord but couldn’t quite get into my Top 10

Easy A – Emma Stone became an actress to watch in Superbad but became a star in Easy A. A retelling of The Scarlett Letter of sorts, one little lie winds up turning a forgettable girl (Stone) into the school slut.

Black Swan – I’m not a Natalie Portman fan but I have to recognize when I’m blown away. And Portman is absolutely amazing in one of the most hypnotic films of the year.

Toy Story 3 – Pixar can do no wrong, I’m convinced.

Kick Ass – The comic book film has become kind of clichéd. Thank God there exists someone like Matthew Vaughn to gently riff on it.

The Cartel – Waiting for Superman may be the higher profile look at education in America, but The Cartel was the better film.

And now …. The Top 10 of 2010 as I saw fit:

10. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Reviewed theatrically

Zach Snyder is becoming a favorite director of mine because he seemingly can’t do any wrong. Who’d have thought the guy behind several hard R-rated films could take a family film about Owls wrapped around a coming of age storyline and make it so damn good? I didn’t. I was excited to see it but not expecting much.

Going into Guardians I thought this could be good but wasn’t holding my breath. I was gladly shocked because I never thought I’d enjoy an animated kid’s film this much. I’m genuinely excited for his take on Superman, after being thoroughly bored by Bryan Singer’s.

9. Mesrine

I had the fortune of seeing both halves of this film back to back (as it was released as two seperate films), thus getting the entire five hour experience of Vincent Cassel as the French Scarface. One of those “so crazy it can’t be made up” stories and men, Jacques Mesrine is such a fascinating criminal to study that five hours doesn’t seem enough. Credit Cassel in the year’s singularly best performance, one that’ll be completely overlooked when it comes to the Oscars as he garners a nomination for Black Swan instead, for making five hours of dark material about an evil man some of the best cinema of the year.

8. Nowhere Boy

I’ve never been a fan of the Beatles, nor of John Lennon, but this is a project that struck my fancy when it was announced. Young John Lennon is never discussed or looked at. It’s always Lennon the poetic voice of a generation against McCarthy’s whimsical side. Young Lennon interests me more than the guy who sung about how awesome a life without having possessions would be while having a net worth north of $100 million at the time of his death. And Aaron Johnson in the role made me want to go see it; is he more than just the dude from Kick-Ass … or are there some real acting chops there.

Following the tale of young Lennon, we get to see him transform from a teenager looking to rebel to a serious artist. From his early bands to the partnership that would define his career with Paul McCartney, this is Lennon before he was in the Beatles. It’s also the more interesting because in most musical biopics this part in his life is a quick glance over until the film gets to the meat of their career. How Lennon went from aimless teenager to driven musician is more fascinating than the famous guy who became the king of the hippies.

7. The A-Team

Reviewed theatrically

Sometimes the laws of physics in cinema just need to be brushed aside for a shot of adrenaline. That’s exactly what The A-Team delivered: an injection of fun into a relatively boring summer film season. It’s kind of rare these days to see a film just go for broke with a wink and a nudge and not be straight camp. Most times you get Piranha 3D. Sometimes you get rewarded for your faith and Joe Carnahan delivered the exact kind of film you’d get from the source material.

With a cast featuring the best chemistry of any of the prevalent “men on a mission” films from this year, it has a simple concept. The best clandestine unit in the military is headed up by a cigar smoking mastermind (Liam Neeson), an aerophobia-laden driver (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), a womanizing procurement specialist (Bradley Cooper) and a certified lunatic of a pilot (Sharlto Copley). Convicted of a crime they didn’t convict, the film centers on their mission to clear their names and bring down the CIA agent (Patrick Wilson) who set them up.

6. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Reviewed theatrically

I thought going in this was going to be either an epic disaster or something brilliant. In the back of my mind was that this was going to be a pedestrian film that would ruin my “Edgar Wright is a great director” buzz still coming to mind after Hot Fuzz. I was gladly wrong as this was such a fun film to watch.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has finally met the love of his life (Mary Elisabeth Winstead). There are just seven problems with her: the League of Evil Ex-Boyfriends that want to kill him. Now he has to fight them to win her heart.

What I loved about this film is that it summarized the sorts of baggage from other relationships we bring in every time we jump into a new one, albeit with deadlier consequences. It’s a great concept and Wright executes it brilliantly. This is a fun film to watch and one that he casts wonderfully; years from now when we discuss 2010 this will be the one classic everyone has grown to love and swore they saw it in theatres.

5. The Expendables

Reviewed on DVD

I was kind of dreading the thought of this film for a while. My main problem was that it was being hyped as more of an “80s action film” instead of “an awesome action film that will rock your balls off” and let’s be honest: a large volume of action films in that era sucked hard. I was jacked to see it, don’t get me wrong, but there was a sneaking suspicion I had that this was going to embrace all the bad aspects of that era instead of the good ones. Even with the Holy Trinity of Explosions together for one iconic moment, my faith in an awesome film was a bit wavering.

Sometimes it’s nice to get rewarded by your heroes of yesteryear in a way that they haven’t in many, many years.

The Expendables focuses on a group of mercenaries looking for a shot at redemption. Inspiring Sylvester Stallone into dropping his plans and make a sequel to this film, this is the sort of action film that’s been missing from theatres.

4. 127 Hours

Reviewed theatrically

I’d love to step into the mind of Danny Boyle when he makes decisions on what to make next. No matter what genre, he’s always making good and interesting films. So when he goes from Slumdog Millionaire and an Oscar win, you’d think he’d grab a big paycheck to do something else right? Wrong.

A small film about a hiker (James Franco) who gets his hand stuck under a boulder, and lasts 127 hours with it trapped until he cuts it off to escape, this is a film that enraptures because James Franco pulls off the performance of his life.

3. Inception

Christopher Nolan had a ton of capital to use after The Dark Knight and opted to go for broke with a film that’s been churning in his head for a decade plus. On the surface it sounds like an awful movie: a team of thieves breaking into someone’s mind. And Warner must really have loved Nolan to give him $150 million and a handful of major stars to make it but at this point he probably could get that kind of budget for a snuff film. And I bet it’d be awesome.

Following an expert team of hackers led by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) hired by a businessman (Ken Watanabe) to break into the mind of a rival (Cillian Murphy) to pull off what is seemingly impossible: plant an idea into his mind. But it’s not as simple as it sounds but it is interesting to see Nolan’s take on a heist film.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

One of the few genuine surprises this year was the emergence of Noomi Rapace. In one fell swoop she went from being a Swiss actress to the next great actress. How’d she pull this off? The Millennium trilogy, most notably The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which arrived on the art house circuit and caught fire. The second two films inevitably declined in quality, if only because they couldn’t match the sheer brilliance of the first, but the key to all three is Rapace.

As Lisbeth, a computer hacking genius with a horrendous past, she’s tasked with assisting a journalist in solving a murder mystery from years ago. As the two delve deeper into the past, they find things that have been buried for so long that people would kill to keep them quiet.

1. Middle Men

Reviewed theatrically

It would be easy to call this a companion piece to Boogie Nights, and it would work well in a double feature with that film, but this isn’t a film about the porn industry per se. It’s about a man (Luke Wilson) who finds himself getting deeper into something he can’t get out of. Much like Nic Cage with guns in >Lord of War, this is the Goodfellas of internet porn.

Focusing on the origins of internet pornography’s transformation of online commerce in the 1990s, this was a massive flop as it earned less than a million dollars against a $20 million budget. Highly fictionalized, we follow a guy who gets people out of professional problems (Wilson) who stumbles into what looks like the score of a lifetime. When two idiots (Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht) who need help with the Russian Mob happen to have crafted millions off a simple internet code that allows people to buy porn online, Wilson’s stumbles into what he thinks will be a quick score. But, like all things, this isn’t a quick buck and he finds himself in deeper than he ever thought he’d be.

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