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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sam Taylor's 10 Ten of 2010 - Part One: Disappointments and Notable Mentions

Written by  Sam BF Taylor

To preface, I count any films that are able to be considered for 2010 awards as films for that year, so although we poor Brits get Black Swan and The Fighter later than most, hopefully my recommendation with encourage you to see them when you’re able to. I’ll keep it concise!


Alice In Wonderland (Tim Burton) – With an ugly, dull colour palette, poor implementation of 3D,  over-indulgence in crude CGI and terrible handling of Lewis Carroll’s beloved characters, Alice In Wonderland was a disappointment in every sense of the . Johnny Depp’s bizarro-shtick was as expected as it was boring, and the bastardisation of the Jabberwocky was obviously both an aftethought, and completely inexcusable.
Verdict: A boring, ugly missed oppurtunity that proves furthermore that Tim Burton has run out of good, relavent ideas.

Due Date (Todd Phillips) – A tired concept for a film already, done much better in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Due Date really does feel like a cash cow movie – not that Robert Downey Jr. really needs one now he’s off  the drugs and one of the biggest names in Hollywood. There are inspired scenes here, but for the most part, it just feels like a reel of deleted scenes from The Hangover, and it’s emotional heart isn’t as striking as Phillips may hope. Zach Galifianakis once again proves he’s a one-trick pony… and Downey Jr. punches a child for comedic effect.

Verdict: Ill-conceived. Please let The Hangover 2 be better than this.

Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau) – Favreau takes just about everything people enjoyed about the first Iron Man and strips it from this over-long theme park attraction. Downey Jr. doesn’t seem committed to the role, the relationships Tony Stark has with Pepper Potts and Rhodey are boring and awkward, Samuel L Jackson becomes a charicature of who Nick Fury is supposed to be, Mickey Rourke is so poorly miscast/badly-accented that he continues Arnold Swazzeneger’s tradition of being ‘the most expensive prop in a movie’, and Sam Rockwell is overacting for everyone else on-screen. Which never happens. Because Sam Rockwell’s usually amazing. No wonder Favreau isn’t directing the third one.

Verdict: Please don’t ruin The Avengers. Please?

Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski) – A film centred solely on the humanisation of computer programmes was always going to lack a certain level of… personality, and whilst Tron: Legacy was flashy, implemented it’s 3D technology well (ie it was pretty much none-existent), had a brilliant Daft Punk soundtrack and a convincingly bummed-out Jeff Bridges in the lead role, it just lacked enough humanity to be engaging. Bridge’s awkwardly-animated younger self, Clu was frustratingly two-dimensional as the film’s Antagonist, and poor old Tron, well… considering it’s a film called ‘Tron’, if I were Bruce Boxleitner, I’d be pretty pissed.

Verdict: Flashy, but artificial and unfulfilling.

A few others – Red (loud, unfunny and too long), Piranha 3D (will appeal to a certain crowd, but probably the same crowd that wouldn’t appreciate Black Swan… which is probably why I hated every second of it), Green Zone (muddled, shaky-cam-tastic, and not half as interesting as the Bourne films).

Notable Mentions:

Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper) – It may have been originally released in 2009, but it was released in the UK in March to relatively small fanfare. Justifiably compared to The Wrestler due to their thematic similarities, what Crazy Heart lacks in brutality when dealing with drugs, growing old, and passion, it makes up for with its obvious adoration for every aspect of Country music, and the hope it can bring to people. Bridges manages to be both likable and flawed, and his relationship with Maggie Gyllenhaal, is the very antithesis of Hollywood. A small film, with a big (drunken, grumbling, crazy) heart.

Verdict: Touching, funny and surprisingly engaging drama about an ageing Country star that's been left behind.

Easy A (Will Gluck) – The film itself is sporadically funny, and touching, but the script isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is, cowering in the shadows of Tina Fey’s wonderful example of natural teenagers’ day-to-day dialogue in Mean Girls. Easy A does a good job of presenting itself as the Mean Girls for a new generation, but the literary references it wears so proudly on its sleeve will leave most of it’s target audience cold, and Lisa Kudrow’s unlikable, blundering high school councillor once again reinforces the curse of anyone attached to F.R.I.E.N.D.S… apart from Matthew Perry in Studio 60. Worth a watch purely for Emma Stone’s natural comic timing and infallible charisma, it’s not as good as some of its peers, but if she’s anything to go by in this, Spider-Man 4’s Gwen Stacy is in safe hands.

Verdict: Worth it's one and a half hour investment, but if you haven't seen Clueless or Mean Girls, they're much better.

Jackass 3D (Jeff Tremaine) – With tongue firmly in cheek, the crew are back for another round of pooing, dildo-ing, punching, slapping, flailing, maiming and skating in Jackass 3D, and it’s refreshing to see 3D being exploited so obviously, intentionally and with such bravado as it is here. I didn’t laugh half as much at the cinema at any other film than I did with Jackass 3D this year, and whilst it doesn’t really tick many of the boxes of what I consider to be exceptional narrative-led cinema (because well, since when has that been the point?), it’s a hilarious portrayal of  a group of friends just having fun, and coming up with stupid ideas. The soundtrack is typically brilliant, and the end credits are surprisingly touching. If this is it for Jackass, it’s a fitting ending to what (for me at least) has been an incredibly influential part of growing up in the 90’s and 00’s.

Verdict: A fitting, hilarious send-off for Jackass. A forth would be pushing it, mind.

A few others: Let Me In (A worthy, if admittedly unnecessary remake of 2009’s best film, Let the Right One In. Delightfully visceral compared to the original’s correct decision to hold back a little more in certain instances), The Kids Are All Right (Well written, with a likable cast, Mia Wasikowska proves she’s not completely useless after Alice in Wonderland… The plot’s predictable, but engaging, and the chemistry between Julianne Moore and both Anette Bening and Mark Ruffalo is convincing and insatiable), Exit Through the Gift Shop (Witty, enigmatic, delightfully British and masterfully told – true proof that John Grierson’s idea of what a Documentary should be has come full circle. Good old Banksy).

Top Ten coming once I've decided just how high Black Swan and Inception deserve to be!

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