We know how much you value our opinion, so it’s that time when we tell you what we thought was awesome and what was crap at the movies this past year. Fred Topel and I have greatly varying tastes when it comes to this topic. Sound off in the comments section and tell us whom you agree with more. Or if we both have serious taste impairments.
Ian “The Colonel” Sobel’s Best
As I look back on the films of 2010 I can say, “Yeah, okay, this wasn’t a bad year for cinema at all.” And I did say that. It was actually difficult to whittle my list down to the ten best. I had to leave off Hot Tub Time Machine, which I thoroughly enjoyed but it simply couldn’t make the cut. Good job, 2010. You entertained me.
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – It’s unlike any movie I’ve seen before, so I suppose that deserves it a slot right there. Truly defines our A.D.H.D. generation, ooooo and look at all the pretty colors! Edgar Wright did a fantastic job merging the video game world and the movie world cohesively. I’d play it again and again.
9. Jackass 3D – The Jackass Crew always seems to get it right. It might be impossible to have more fun at the movies. I also almost puked this time around during the “Sweat Suit Cocktail.” That’s the sign of a true classic.
8. The Town – Hey, that Benny Affleck can direct, and how! It’s nic knowing that Gone Baby Gone wasn’t a fluke. The movie had its clichéd moments for sure, but the action scenes were gripping and Jeremy Renner gave an Oscar worthy performance. Mahk my wehds. He’ll get a nawmination.
7. Unstoppable – Tony Scott back in true form. What I thought was going to be a silly movie about an evil train turned out to be an edge of your seat thrill ride. Yes, it even deserves that hackneyed exclamation.
6. Black Swan – Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman, but besides that, Darren Aronofsky made a fantastic, moody thriller in the vein of an old Polanski flick. Portman has never been better, or more lithe.
5. Toy Story 3 – Pixar pleases again with this third entry into the Toy Story series. I’ve never been a huge fan of the talking toys tales, but there’s no denying that the Pixar folks know story and they execute it superbly. How can a cowboy and a spaceman make be weep? How?!
4. How To Train Your Dragon – An inventive and hugely entertaining animated flick with a simple theme. The 3D rivaled Avatar’s. In fact, some of the dragon flight scenes I found even more thrilling than the ones in Cameron’s box office champion.
3. Inception – How does a man write a story like this without scrambling his brain’s in the process? The replay value on this film is phenomenal. You could watch it 20 times and still catch something new each time. And that ending. Oy! One of the best cut-to-black’s in years.
2. The Social Network – David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, and the entire cast turned what sounded like an impossible adaptation into an engaging and powerful drama. This is one of those films where everything just came together, which it so rarely does. Superb director, writer, actors, cinematographer, and musical stylings of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I’d totally poke it.
1. The King’s Speech – Oh look, Ian enjoyed the independent film about the British king with a stammer, like some pretentious bugger. You’re bloody right I did! As soon as The King’s Speech was over I wanted to see it again – the true test of a great film. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush go together like peas and carrots. They should both win Oscars. In fact, this movie should win everything. And if you say otherwise I’ll sucker punch you and run away in the opposite direction.
Fred Topel’s Best
I was really going to put The Crazies and Sorcerer’s Apprentice as numbers 10 and 9. I even considered MacGruber legitimately but I’ll throw you a bone on this one. I’ll make enough of a point with numbers 2, 4 and 5 I can give you Inception and Toy Story 3. So with some compromise, these are my 10 favorite movies of the year. I generally don’t love awards-y movies.
10. Inception – I wasn’t in love with this one but I respect that it is a monumental achievement in story structure. I wasn’t emotionally involved with it but I’ll just admit that I’m wrong on this one. Inception’s awesome (but so is MacGruber.)
9. Toy Story 3 – This is really just a bigger, badder sequel version of Toy Story 2, but Pixar’s bigger, badder sequel is still great. Maybe after 10 years it seems like a surprising emotional piece, but I’ve been thinking about Toy Story 2 every day of my life for the past 10 years. I’m already dealing with the existential crisis of temporary love vs. everlasting fame. Toy Story 3 is just the punctuation mark.
8. Chloe – A surprise I only caught on Blu-ray, this grown-up drama really goes to mature places and I want to go there with it.
7. The American – This was pure visual storytelling. Clooney never had to explain “This is what an assassin does.” The film just showed it and it was thrilling.
6. 127 Hours – I actually was moved by this stylized subjective drama. On a pure survival level the five days are a fascinating journey. Watch the arm cutting. You’ll never learn to deal with it unless you confront what scares you.
5. Flipped – Rob Reiner was really back in Stand By Me form here. This childhood love drama is like The Notebook for kids. It’s profoundly emotional and confronts the difficult decisions and prejudices we grow up with in our families. Don’t be afraid of the kids, give this one a chance.
4. Step Up 3-D – I believe the most important quality a movie should have is being awesome. There’s nothing more awesome than the moves and choreography on display in the latest Step Up. The story truly doesn’t matter because it’s superceded by excuses to compile thrilling exhibitions.
3. Scott Pilgrim Vs the World – This is a truly beautiful film, not for any of its pop culture references, which were indeed rewarding. Edgar Wright’s true achievement though is his creation of an alternate reality. In an age where CGI makes any Hogwart’s or middle earth seem real, Wright changed the language of cinema, whose alternate physics and emotions were still relatable.
2. The Book of Eli – I really thought this would be the best movie I saw all year back in January. This is what movies should be. It fulfills the genre requirements of exciting post-apocalyptic action, but it’s so smart and has such a profound message. You can deal with the social impact of religion without being heavy handed or even spelling out a point of view.
1. The Social Network – Yet I hope Eli will forgive me for warming to this real world tale of corruption and unlikeable protagonists. This is also what movies should be. They make the truth exciting and eloquent with a visceral depiction of a phenomenon.
10. Middle Men – It wanted to be Goodfellas so badly, but it wasn’t. Also, if you’re going to make a movie about the porn industry, might I suggest more nudity? If you don’t bring the originality, at least bring the goods.
9. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – Or as it should have been called: Hey I’m Woody Allen and Aren’t I Neurotic?! We get it, Woody. Even if Josh Brolin gains a few pounds, it’s still awkward that he’s playing a version of you.
8. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – I’ve had meetings with my financial advisor that are more exciting. If you trade stocks all day you might find this movie amusing. Otherwise it’s a big fail for Oliver Stone.
7. Dinner for Schmucks – If more things went wrong in this movie due to happenstance it would be another Meet The Parents sequel. People show up right when they’re supposed to to hear things that they’re not supposed to hear. And boy does it cause some misunderstandings.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street – If you want to see Rooney Mara, check out The Social Network, not this P.O.S. The sometimes-interesting visuals don’t make up for the awful acting and dialogue of Freddy’s victims.
5. The Losers – A completely unnecessary graphic novel adaptation about mercenaries. I’d tell you to see The Expendables instead, but that wasn’t very good either. The only redeeming part of the film is Jason Patrick’s weird-as-hell performance. It’s like he’s a Looney Tunes character.
4. The Wolfman – The problems this film faced during production are right up there on the screen. It’s like the studio finally admitted defeat and decided to release it anyway. Watch An American Werewolf In London instead. The 30-year-old special effects are still more convincing.
3. How Do You Know – On Paul Rudd, what happened to you this year? First Dinner for Schmucks and then this dreck. Even sadder is what happened to James L. Brooks. I guess we can no longer count on the caliber of Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. If you love to watch unlikeable characters moaning about their petty issues for two hours, this movie might be for you. Life can’t be too hard for them. They live in really nice apartments.
2. My Soul To Take – I just, I can’t even go into how bad this movie is. Wes Craven has made some stinkers, but man oh man. I would say this is like an awful “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” episode, but I used to love that show. It’s more like a bad SyFy movie that doesn’t know it’s bad.
1. Grown Ups – Sad on every level. I hope to God the cast did it solely for the money. At least then I’d understand this painful abomination. How can most of these “actors” be so funny when it’s just them on stage with a mic in their hand, but so unfunny when people “write” dialogue for them to try and say? I live in fear waiting for their next reunion movie.
Why stop at 10? I usually leave out the most universally hated ones. Jonah Hex may make a lot of lists but that’s just an action movie that didn’t work. People will have it out for The Last Airbender but even if you hate M. Night, there are far worse movies that are getting a pass. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Furry Vengeance… yet, but these should be too controversial:
15. Green Zone – The absolute worst of the shaky cam handheld style. Shots are just incomprehensible and out of focus. This is lazy filmmaking, not style.
14. Clash of the Titans – On the other extreme, so busy you can’t even tell what’s going on. The fights aren’t even cool. It just looks like dudes rolling around and they add monsters later.
13. Dinner for Schmucks – I wouldn’t blame this American remake for trying to expand a French movie that was under 80 minutes, but they expanded it with business that’s not funny. It takes 80 minutes to get to the dinner at all but it just seems like people throwing crazy ideas against the wall, without actually thinking about what might make them funny.
12. Country Strong – Just a blatant vehicle for Oscar bait as Gwyneth Paltrow plays an alcoholic country star. Yet it doesn’t even have the class of most Oscar bait so it’s just exploitation.
11. Despicable Me – The worst of the animated kids’ movies, these are just obnoxious characters propped up by adorable minions. But, you can show kids anything and still make money.
10. The Backup Plan – Even by romantic comedy standards, the latest J-Lo vehicle (maybe the last now that she’s on Idol?) is aggressively not funny. I’ll even give you the generic opposites attract premise, but the so-called humor is all dribbling food and bumping heads.
9. Love Ranch – I almost forgot about this one, but it’s not just unmemorable. This dramatization of the legal brothel in Nevada doesn’t feel true at all. It’s got so many Hollywood clichés, and it seems beneath Joe Pesci to do “crazy violent guy” again.
8. Yogi Bear – Tough to handle even be kids’ movie standards. I’ll give you the CGI bear antics, but there aren’t actually that many of them. It takes the plot way too long to work itself out, has too many annoying human characters and the animation isn’t even good.
7. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – When did Oliver Stone lose his balls? This movie has nothing to say about the financial industry, and it’s even set during the 2008 financial crisis!
6. Salt – This action movie couldn’t possibly be any more generic or mediocre. Stunts that should be exciting simply are not, and it gets worse. The plot twists are so ridiculous it’s insulting, and the way the movie just ends is the worst of all.
5. The Tempest – Who writes this crap? Just kidding, the script is not the problem with this Shakespeare adaptation. The concept of updating it only makes it more convoluted and some of the artistic flourishes just come off looking embarrassing (male spirit with women’s breasts, Djimon Honsou’s native costume…)
4. Leap Year – A January movie if there ever was one, this movie seems designed to be bad on purpose. They chose the most typical clichés and executed them in the most obnoxious fashion. It feels like genuine contempt for an audience that anyone thinks this would be appealing.
3. Hereafter – Clint Eastwood’s foray into the afterlife and mortality issues was just miserable. Every scene goes on too long and wallows in three sets of characters’ misfortune. Constructing misfortunate to jerk tears is not emotional.
2. Grown-Ups – Worse than not being funny, this movie is just mean. When you get five comedians together, they’re all desperate for attention so they keep trying to one-up each other and escalate the level of nastiness. You sit in this world for 90 minutes and feel your soul go to a dark place.
1. You Again – This isn’t necessarily mean, but it’s so insulting it’s even worse. Andy Fickman in the master of big studio un-comedy by the numbers. The stupid comedic moments are so embarrassing you feel bad for the people involved. Jamie Lee Curtis may sell poop yogurt, but she’s better than this. Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman and Kristen Bell seem like lovely people. Hollywood should treat them better.