2010 in Movies

My movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 2010, as I could best remember them.

Please note: I accidentally deleted an earlier version of this page. What follows are the comments I made at the time I created a new page, as my end-of-year comments, which were more thoughtful, are gone for ever.

1. Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by Bansky (10/10)

Lost my review.

I have seen it twice though. I think 9 is perhaps slightly unfair; this is one of the great “documentaries”:

  • is Mr. Brainwash an artist or a fraud?
  • Is the film an elaborate prank or an insightful documentary as to the nature of art and how interpretation changes value?

Having not watched it for maybe six to nine months I am at a loss for words to describe how amazing this is.

1. Incendies, directed by Dennis Villeneuve (10/10)

I have a few nit-picky issues:

  • repetition of “You and Whose Army,”
  • repetition of one particular scene (I don’t like repetition in movies, I don’t like repetition in movies),
  • and some kind of vague feeling that if I thought about it more, the twist wouldn’t make any sense,

But those issues aside, this is an incredible film. The fact that it once was a play is a huge testament to the director, who has made it utterly unlike a play (something all too rare in adaptations of this sort). We have strong female characters that we would never find in a film like this made by most associated with Hollywood. We have some absolutely gorgeous cinematography to contrast the events. We have a deliberate and tense pacing that managed to utterly fool me regarding the reveal (I thought he had blown it and revealed it early).

Much more I could say I guess but I’ll stop.

3. Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson (9/10)

Aside from a few interviews which are edited to make the interviewees look bad, this is a great documentary about what caused the 2008 financial crisis. And it’s scary.

4. Winter’s Bone, directed by Debra Granik (9/10)

This is one of those movies where everything is pretty much note-perfect. The only thing I think holding me back from giving it higher marks is that it lacks a bigger message, which is hardly a criticism.

Here we have a realistic heroine, always a rare thing. And enough subtlety – which in this film is entirely appropriate – to keep us in suspense.

Really nothing I can say against it. A great film.

5. Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan (9/10)

Yes, there are some issues. These are especially apparent in the final act, where the time really doesn’t work.

However, I would say that it’s nitpicking to get upset with a sci-fi film that works so well in so many other ways. We have crazy CG – that generally doesn’t look like CG, unlike so much other CG – and we have good human physical acting as well – from Gordon-Levitt in particular.

And it’s really a unique thing. Never seen anything like it. Like all good Sci-Fi, its own universe (mostly) makes sense, which is not just good but necessary.

I am tempted to say that Nolan is the most interesting mainstream filmmaker today, at least the most consistently good interesting mainstream filmmaker today (depending on your definition of mainstream).

Note: I never want to watch this again so I can remember it as classic.

6. The Social Network, directed by David Fincher (9/10)

The first few scenes of this movie worried me: I didn’t like the dialogue – I generally find that Sorkin over-writes pretty much everything – I didn’t like the cutting and I didn’t like the score.

But Fincher is such a good director – and arguably the material is so compelling regardless of whether or not people actually talk like this – that I eventually only cared about what was going to happen (even though I knew the outcome). It is the mark of a great filmmaker when he can wring suspense out of a story you already know, and Fincher does that here.

I do think Reznor’s score is more than a tad overrated but by the end I had stopped paying attention.

Now I have to decide what I do with my facebook account.

7. Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese (9/10)

This is an excellent crime thriller / psychological thriller that once again shows off Scorsese’s ability to handle any kind of material and make it convincing. (This is a plot that is really outside his typical wheelhouse.)

It also features one of the best performances of DiCaprio’s career (which is really saying something), a performance so convincing that even when all your instincts are telling you one thing, you want to…well, I won’t say anything else.

This is one of the movies, you know, where learning much about it ruins it for you. You should just see it, if you haven’t already.


8. The Arbor, directed by Clio Barnard (9/10)

This is an inventive, provocative and daring “documentary” about the daughter of the late British playwright Andrea Dunbar, someone I’ve never heard of. Taking its cue from a play made to celebrate the anniversary of Dunbar’s first play (or to investigate its legacy), this documentary has actors lip sync audio recordings of people involved in Dunbar’s life and her daughter’s. It combines this with video recordings of Dunbar herself and excerpts from Dunbar’s first play.

This approach may seem pretentious or unnecessarily arty, but it actually works extremely well given the importance of the play in the life of the daughter. The result is incredibly moving and affecting, in spite of the artifice (or, perhaps, due to it). And it’s one of the more incredible “documentary” films I have seen recently.

Absolutely worth seeing.

9. Blue Valentine, directed by Derek Cianfrance (9/10)

This is a devastating portrait of a relationship that rings true with both the excitement of love and the heartbreak of the end of a relationship. It’s a remarkable achievement even if Cianfrance didn’t get to do what he wanted to, which is to film the two time periods years apart, kind of like a proto-Boyhood.

Gosling drives me crazy, even in the “earlier” parts when he’s supposed to be charming, but I feel like that’s a testament to his performance. And Michelle Williams is pretty good too, though perhaps not quite as fantastic as in Meek’s Cutoff. But, for me, the real value is in the structure (though the committed performances help). I have only ever gone through one breakup that was serious, really, and I kept going back to the beginning of our relationship in my mind, to try to figure out where we went wrong. This film makes me recall that in a way that I didn’t think a film could, and that’s powerful – so powerful it’s kind of painful. For me, that’s great filmmaking, if I can have a reaction to a film like that, while also appreciating its art.

10. The Poll Diaries, directed by Chris Kraus (9/10)

Much more consistent, though less compelling, than Route Irish, is is yet another great German film about the bad things going on in the supposedly happy pre-WWI Europe. The film is mostly great. The soundtrack is a little over-done and there are a few moments that verge on melodrama, but for the most part it is an excellent drama.

11. Carlos, directed by Oliver Assayas (8/10)

Technically a miniseries. Read the review of Carlos.

12. Meek’s Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt (8/10)

The Western was possibly my favourite genre growing up, I watched tons of the classic Hollywood Westerns. So many, in fact, that I ruined classic Westerns for myself and moved on to revisitionist westerns. The Western of classic Hollywood relies so much on mythology. But even most of the revisionist westerns I love so much still rely on the mythology. It’s rare to see a western that tries to be completely historically accurate.

Well, this is one of those films. Think of is as Oregon Trail: The Movie.

The characters feel like real people but, far more importantly, their journey feels real. This is a deliberately paced film that is likely not for everyone, but that pace actually makes it more tense, more compelling and certainly more truthful. There’s no comment on past westerns here, just some pioneers trying to survive both the elements and each other. (Though there is the use of a few thriller-style cliches to trick us into imagining what’s coming next.)

Good stuff.

13. Casino Jack and the United States of Money, directed by Alex Gibney (8/10)

I’m so glad I live in Canada. Read the review of Casino Jack the documentary.

14. Route Irish, directed by Ken Loach (8/10)

At first I was really pissed off by the subtitles. I really don’t know why there were subtitles as it was in English. It bugged me so much that I was missing the quality of the film.

Though I can think of no dramatic rationale for the video clips of Iraq and though there are a number of thriller cliches in the film I’ve decided they don’t weaken the emotional impact of the film’s condemnation of private armies. Besides, there were a few amazing scenes that made me forget the weaker ones. It’s a flawed movie but notable and worth seeing despite of it.

Nearly great, I guess. Tough call.

15. Cave of Forgotten Dreams, directed by Werner Herzog (8/10)

What is the point of making a 3-D documentary? Well, it turns out it was very very helpful for this film. We see cave paintings that we probably will never get a chance to see live; this is the only film ever made of them so far, and access is restricted to a few weeks a year to specific scientists. It’s quite incredible to see the cave and paintings in 3-D.

The film is a little overlong, but is otherwise a typically great Herzog documentary.

16. The Other Guys, directed by Adam McKay (8/10)

This is a surprisingly clever comedy that managed to surprise me in a number of ways, while also making me laugh a ton (it couldn’t have hurt that I was dead tired and therefore in a very silly mood).

Ferrell is actually almost a real character, which is a nice surprise. And Wahlberg sort of plays off his reputation as someone without a sense of humour. So hooray for characters!

But the real strength is as parody: this is the best action movie / cop movie parody since Hot Fuzz. In some ways it might actually be better because it is less obviously an action movie parody (at least at times).

And then, for an added bonus, the filmmakers throw in a totally unexpected (but totally related) moral for the credits, which reeks of condescension, but so what? If a buddy comedy can be used as a vehicle for educating people about the corporate crime that is far more destructive to the US than drugs, than why not do it?

17. Boy, directed by Taika Waititi (8/10)

This is an engaging an affecting coming of age story set on a Maori reserve in New Zealand. Though we’ve seen movies like this before, I have definitely never seen a coming of a age story set on a Maori reserve. It’s the kind of film that makes me wonder why we don’t have a similar film set in Canada. (Maybe we do and I’m unaware of it.)

Though this is a familiar story – a kid looks up to his delinquent father and learns that he shouldn’t – the unique location and the film’s boundless sense of the joy and wonder of childhood make it seem like it isn’t a familiar story.

Well worth watching.

18. Beginners, directed by Mike Mills (8/10)

This is extremely affecting and often entertaining film that tries and somehow manages to balance two different types of films, the meet-cute romantic comedy and the parent-dying drama. It does both, and it also adds a unique spin – using narration with photographs to deal with with the passage of time in in a rather unique way for an otherwise mainstream narrative film.


The one thing I will say that is an issue is Christopher Plummer’s character’s cancer. Like so much other movie cancer, this is a sad cancer, but it is not a gross, awful cancer. And really, it’s about time Hollywood films got over their aversion to the awfulness of death by terminal illness and let us audiences grapple with it.

But that being said, I still really liked this a lot.

19. True Grit, directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (8/10)

Better than the original (and, not surprisingly, supposedly truer to the source material).  Bridges is absolutely outstanding.

My only gripe is the score, mostly around the climax, which is not very good.

20. And Everything is Going Fine, directed by Steven Soderbergh (8/10)

I know virtually nothing about Spalding Gray; I’ve heard of the film of Swimming to Cambodia but that’s it.

Soderbergh takes an interesting and, I would say, appropriate approach. Almost the entire film is excerpts of films of Gray and interviews of him and it’s a daring, compelling approach given that Soderbergh does not introduce Gray at all and you have to learn with the film.

Gray’s approach is extremely narcissistic in one view, but also extremely illuminating and, like it or not, he’s a good storyteller. I think of things like Mortified and think, wow was Gray ever prescient, for better or worse.

This is a really cool documentary, as form-wise it really suits the content and it’s hard for me to say anything negative about it.

21. Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughan (8/10)

This is a very fun (and pretty violent) revisionist super-hero film.

My only qualm is that it doesn’t go far enough in its revisionism, eventually retreating to a conventional climax associated with many westerns and action movies.

But it’s really funny (if you have a stomach for violence) and it’s way less corny than it could have been.

22. Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia (8/10)

This is a captivating and engrossing film about Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One driver who some believe was the greatest driver the sport has ever seen, but who died young, before he might have broken some records.

The film does a good job of making us understand why Senna had appeal outside of his sport in addition to within the sport and manages to make a lot of the Formula “drama” more interesting than I normally find it. (I am just getting into the sport and I enjoy the racing, not the bickering.)

It also does a pretty good job of summarizing what’s going on for those of us who didn’t follow F1 while not belabouring the “beginners” stuff.

Worth watching.

23. The Hunter, directed by Rafi Pitts (8/10)

The Hunter begins very slowly but it was deliberate and made the faster events of the second half considerably more affecting and effective. Gun shots were so loud and rare that they stuck with you. There was a great car chase.

The director (who gave one of the best Q and As I’ve seen at TIFF) claimed it was a western. I can see that. I liked it more after his talk.

24. Another Year, directed by Mike Leigh (8/10)

This is an affecting and amusing dramedy about one year in the life of married couple – who are seemingly so happy it’s not even funny – and their dysfunctional family and friends. The couple are introduced in the most roundabout way, as if they are not even the protagonists, and the entire film unfolds as unconventionally.

This is one of those movies that drive people crazy with its lack of plot – there isn’t one – but which really makes a big impression upon you if you let it. It’s really quite funny – in that awkward British way – and though the central relationship at the heart of the film is a little too positive for any kind of real drama (though it feels real), the family and friends provide enough of it.

25. The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper (8/10)

Lost my review. Very pleasantly surprised.

26. The Lottery, directed by Madeleine Sackler (8/10)

Lost my review. An informative and compelling, if biased, look at charter schools.

27. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, directed by Andrei Ujica (8/10)

Read the review.

28. Dhobi Ghat, directed by Kiran Rao (8/10)

An engaging ensemble about life in Mumbai. Read the Dhobi Ghat.

29. Catfish, directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman (7/10)

Wish I watched it when it came out. Read the review of Catfish.

30. Client 9, directed by Alex Gibney (7/10)

A pretty good documentary about sex scandals and corruption in the United States. Read the review of Client 9.

31. Buried, directed by Rodrigo Cortes (7/10)

If you can suspend your disbelief, this is worthwhile. Read the review.

32. Lemmy, directed by Greg Oliver and Wes Orshoski (7/10)

This is an engaging, entertaining and warmhearted documentary about one of rock and roll’s most notorious survivors.

It’s got all sorts of entertaining anecdotes from all over the music industry – and from outside the industry as well. Some of the people in the film seem odd choices for interviews, but I guess that’s where we are now.

Some of the claims about Motorhead are downright ridiculous – multiple people claim Motorhead were, along with Black Sabbath, the first heavy metal band of all time. Motorhead’s debut was when exactly? 1969? What? 1977? Really? That’s odd. I thought Heavy Metal was invented in in the 1960s. But musicians can’t be expected to be good rock historians so I guess I should let that pass.

The idiosyncratic structure is really a plus and I guess the only drawbacks to this film are the interviews with people who shouldn’t be in the film – reality TV show stars, for example – and the lack of any real solid historical perspective on what Motorhead was.

But it’s enjoyable and interesting and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, so it’s definitely worth watching.

33. Bhutto, directed by Duane Baughman, Johnny O’Hara (7/10)

Read the review of Bhutto.

34. Biutiful, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (7/10)

I always want to like his movies. I appreciate his attempts at realism and especially his attempts to convey the complexity of life, something which most filmmakers ignore. And he almost always gets great performances from his usually great casts.

But wow, does he ever need someone to say no to him. Every Inarritu movie has about 10 too many ideas in it for its own good and Biutiful is no exception to that. There is a lot to like here but it’s all moments of power or pathos or what have you and they are drowning in more plot threads – and conflicting character motivations – than we can count. And that didn’t surprise me in the slightest because Inarritu made the film and I can’t name one of his movies that doesn’t suffer from the same problems.

It’s a shame. With a producer and / or editor to give him a little more guidance, he might be a great director.

35. Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky (7/10)

Occasionally I come across a movie I don’t know what quite to make of and this is one of them.

So first, the good:

  • It is great to look at.
  • There’s all sorts of great (although not entirely subtle) black and white stuff going on in this movie, and the ballet is shot very well.

The problem for me I guess is, as with so many of these “psychological” horror films is that at times it is a little hard to figure out what is real and what isn’t – which is the point, I know – and that leads me to having a bit of trouble suspending my disbelief about the final act, where I have a hard time buying that the entire company didn’t notice what was going on.

36. All Good Things, directed by Andrew Jarecki (7/10)

Now that The Jinx exists, and I unfortunately know of the relationship between that show and this movie, it’s kind of hard to think about this in isolation, but I will try.

The film is very well acted: this is another one of those Gosling roles that he handles so well, even if, by this point, he’s sort of been type cast as the conflicted, silent type; Dunst is also excellent. And the supporting cast is fine.

The film feels a bit too clinical for much of its run, and frankly I blame Jarecki, who seems to think it’s a documentary – which makes sense, given what it’s based on, and what it inspired. The film’s drama massively improves, however, in the final act, when things start to come together a little more.

I’m torn, part of me really liked the rather unique, almost documentary approach – but it certainly doesn’t work if you were looking for a thriller. And Jarecki struggles a bit with the tone. But I can’t say I wasn’t entertained/captivated.

37. Certified Copy, directed by Abbas Kiarostami (7/10)

A beautifully shot, bonkers Before Sunrise. Read the review of Certified Copy.

38. Outside the Law, directed by Rachid Bouchareb (7/10)

Outside the Law is actually the sequel to Days of Glory; I had missed that somehow.

It was too epic for its own good, like the other French movie was oblique. Too episodic too.

At the beginning, each scene takes place in a different time. It’s an onslaught of subtitles. There were some poor staging as a result of trying to save time (so I supposed). At one point a captive is interrogated next to a TV showing the audience what was happening in France at the time. At another point a man makes a speech about a covert organization. These stretched my credulity.

It was a decent film. It was a good film, actually. But it wasn’t great. Bouchareb is still not a great filmmaker in my mind.

39. Boxing Gym, directed by Frederick Wiseman (7/10)

Boxing Gym is exactly what it says. I generally liked it but found it a little long. I think he was trying to convey how much dedication this takes. I get that, but a few less minutes would have worked. I had no idea how dedicated these people had to be. In that sense it was illuminating and educational.

40. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, directed by Edgar Wright (7/10)

I feel like this is another Better Off Dead, only executed much better.

Not everything works, but most of it does, and the inventive direction – probably “inventive” only because of how true it is to the source material – does a lot to let us overcome the cliches. Certainly this film could be a lot better but that’s on the source material. As an adaptation, it’s kind of great despite the rom-com / coming of age cliches – and despite the ending, that could have made it so much better if handled differently – and it’s amazing some video game adaptation didn’t take this route. Because this is better than most (all?) video game adaptations and that’s partly due to its willingness to borrow from old video games (which I assume the graphic novel did as well).

So despite some really cliche moments, and despite the issues I might have had with the lead, this is pretty good stuff.

41. Easy Money, directed by Daniel Espinosa (7/10)

This is an interesting “in over his head” type morality tale about a young man who wishes he was rich, and so tries to get there the easiest way possible, which also has an incredible original name, Snabba cash. It takes a different stance than the usual contemporary Hollywood version of this story, which is refreshing.

Credulity is stretched here and there, but on the whole I didn’t find too much to critique about it, and it’s engaging and everyone is good. Moreover, everyone feels real, even if the story at times does not.

42. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, directed by Craig McCall (7/10)

For film nerds, rather than the general public. Read the review of Cameraman.

43. Kaboom, directed by Gregg Araki (7/10)

What can I say? ‘What the fuck?’ is over-used but it is entirely appropriate for this crazy, undisciplined and entirely ridiculous film. I know of no university like this where pretty people sit around with nothing to do – and no campus staff or professors in sight either – and have disease free sex with everyone they meet.

On the other hand, it’s mostly hilarious – albeit dumbly hilarious – and it is totally aware of its own limitations, budgetary and otherwise. Plus there’s a totally subversive ending.

Is it terrible or awesome? It’s a little in between.

44. Harry the Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, directed by David Yates (7/10)

So the school narrative has been dropped, finally. But otherwise I feel like much of what I said about The Half-Blood Prince really applies to this movie – with the exception of the Half-Blood Prince’s identity, obvs – but maybe this movie is more like when the rebels get ambushed on Endor, right before the Ewoks show up, rather than Empire, since we’re that much closer to the end.

Because that’s the problem; even though this movie gives us many of the darkest moments in the series – and also a kind of spy-movie sequence, which is odd – it still feels like paint-by-numbers. The fight between the three friends feels like it has been in half the movies ever about human beings banding together to accomplish something, and so many major characters are gone awol, I can’t help but expect all of them to come swooping in like the cavalry – or the Ewoks – in Part 2.

But hopefully I am wrong about the latter and, ignoring what I expect to happen in the sequel, it’s really only the Ron-Harmione-Harry conflict that deflates this movie.

Otherwise it would be the best one in the series, I think, since it’s finally concentrated on the overall story, and not trying to balance the school adventures with the return of Voldemort.

45. Freakonomics, directed by Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney (7/10)

Certainly the content of this film is interesting, especially for someone like me who hasn’t yet had a chance to read the book.

But there is a general problem in that it seems like whomever was in charge of the whole project didn’t really establish firm guidelines to the filmmakers. This is most glaringly obvious in how some of the films have titles – in addition to and separate from the segment titles – as if they were standalone films. I know this is nit-picky, but it just seemed like the whole thing might have been put together better.

46. Machete, directed by Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez (7/10)

A lot of fun.

47. In the Name of the Family, directed by Shelley Saywell (7/10)

A depressing film about honour killings. Read the review of In the Name of the Family.

48. RED, directed by Robert Schwentke (6/10)

A fair amount of fun but also maybe a missed opportunity. Read the review of RED.

49. Billy Budd, directed by Francois Rousillon (6/10)

To some, Billy Budd was the greatest English-language opera ever written when it premiered, to a few its even the greatest English-language opera ever. (To those people I say, have you ever heard of John Adams? But anyway…)

I did not love it when I first heard it, for any number of reasons, the biggest being that Britten’s music is entirely too conservative for me. I do like a few of his pieces but, for the most part, I prefer my 20th century music a little more interesting than Britten.

But I will say this live production from 2010 (filmed for TV, apparently) makes the opera a lot more enjoyable. (I suspect seeing this particular opera live helps a lot with your appreciation of it.) It’s an interesting staging and seeing the action makes it more compelling. This is something for me to keep in my with other operas I don’t love.

Certainly nothing to go out of your way to watch – unless you are thinking of listening to Billy Budd – but better than I expected.

50. Greenberg, directed by Noah Baumbach (6/10)

I just saw Frances Ha and I can’t help but compare the two films, even though I shouldn’t. Both are the least significant films Baumbach has made (perhaps slightest is the better word). They’re still engaging movies but they lack the import of his earliest films. This one seems even less significant than Frances Ha.

Frances Ha is nicer to look at and feels like it is an attempt to get at something about hipsters.

Greenberg just feels like a portrait of one guy’s potentially life-changing vacation. As such, it’s fine; it’s well acted, it’s funny, it’s unnerving. But it still feels slight.

51. I Ain’t in This for My Health, directed by Jacob Hatley (6/10)

This is a kind of directionless but, at times, moving portrait of part of one of the last years of Levon Helm’s life. He’s struggling to continue to perform music while he deals with what might be a return of his throat cancer.

The film isn’t really sure what it wants to be: we get a portrait of him at home, a little bit of him on the road, some history about The Band and his feelings toward some of the members, but all of this feels like the filmmaker is just sort of probing here and there.

Though seeing into the life of a famous musician this close to death is a rare thing, the film still feels like a missed opportunity. I feel like all I got from it was the reassurance that Helm was a character and that he loved what he did. And I knew both of those things going in.

52. Carancho, directed by Pablo Trapero (6/10)

Problematic. Read the review of Carancho.

53. Animal Kingdom, directed by David Michold (6/10)

This is like a blue collar gangster film with Italian Americans replaced by Aussies. This film has excellent acting and I like how incompetent the criminals are. It’s refreshing.

But I struggle with the plot. You know the expression “Stranger than fiction”? Well, this plot is a little of that. Apparently it was fairly loosely inspired by a true story, which sort of makes sense because this is one of those ‘too weird to be believed’ stories.

I guess I was just expecting more, given the huge amount of praise this movie got. It’s not that it’s bad – it’s not bad. It’s just not a classic in any way. I think the direction is probably one thing that could have been tightened, that might have made this more successful.

54. Easy A, directed by Wil Gluck (6/10)

This is certainly more entertaining than it has any right to be (the adult roles are all exceptionally funny).

But the numerous problems that hurt these types of movies persist:

  • Emma Stone is way too attractive to be a wallflower (as every girl who has ever played one in a teen movie was),
  • a little too smart for a 17-year-old,
  • and the ending – as is always the case – involves something that would never actually happen at a school (at least any school I’ve attended).

But it’s consistently funny (at least until the end) and it’s self-aware enough (too self-aware) to be upfront about its silliness.

55. Bill Cunningham’s New York, directed by Richard Press (6/10)

Bill Cunningham is an interesting guy. He has some interesting theories about style and fashion – subjects that I couldn’t care less about but when he talks about them I listen. However, I can’t help but feel a certain way about some of these New York City documentaries.

Now, I’m not one to invoke the term “cultural imperialism” but when I watch movies like this one, so obsessed with one New Yorker – or one scene in New York – I have a hard time taking them as seriously as the filmmakers and interviewees intended. Because, unfortunately, most of the people in these films think New York was, is and always will be The Centre of the Universe. And that’s a problem because it’s not. Sure, for much of the 20th Century, and maybe even part of this century, if something happened there, it was likely to have more influence than if it happened in, oh I don’t know, Albany, but that does not mean it’s the most important place. And it doesn’t mean that the style photographer for the Times matters to anyone who doesn’t live in greater NYC.

That being said, it’s well made and he’s an interesting guy.

56. Barney’s Version, directed by Richard J. Lewis (6/10)

So, I have not read the novel. I have no idea whether or not it’s good. I have heard good things. Also, I like the concept.

But, despite Giamatti’s excellent performance in the title role I could not bring myself to like the main character and that’s a big, big problem for a film that focuses on the life of that character. I don’t know whether it was my mood, or whether the film left out parts of the novel that would have made Barney more endearing, or whether I needed the to experience the film through someone else’s eyes. But I found myself thinking many times: why do people spend time with this guy? I don’t blame Giamatti; he is excellent. I think maybe it’s the script. Anyway, it’s sure hard to appreciate a film when all you want to do is skip to the scenes that main character isn’t in…oh wait…

57. Hesher, directed by Spencer Susser (6/10)

I have two theories about this very strange, but entertaining and affecting, film:

  • One, a guy wanted to see what would happen if he introduced a character who was just so “Metal” into an otherwise normal indie movie. By “Metal” I mean, one of these people who does things that are considered “metal”, i.e. whatever they want.
  • My second theory is that the writer was tired of watching so many “eccentric stranger comes into our lives and turns us around” movies that he decided a movie should be made with a really eccentric, and dangerous, stranger.

Either way, the results are mixed. There are certainly some really funny moments and some somewhat affecting moments, though the finale is a little over the top, but it’s hard to understand the motivations of everyone a lot of the time.

A mixed bag.

58. Blank City, directed by Celine Danhler (6/10)

Read the review of Blank City.

59. Grace, Milly, Lucy… Child Soldiers (6/10)

A brief but affecting documentary about girl child soldiers in Uganda. Read the review of Grace, Milly, Lucy… Child Soldiers.

60. A Drummer’s Dream, directed by John Walker (6/10)

Unfortunately, I saw an abbreviated version of this on TVO, so any thoughts I have about it aren’t exactly fair.

This is an interesting movie, even if you are not the world’s biggest drum fan (I am not). I hadn’t actually heard of any of these guys, though all are clearly near the top of their profession in terms of one or more specific skills.

Funnily enough, the guy who has been regularly rated the fasted drummer in the world is far less impressive than “El Negro,” because “El Negro” plays far more complicated music.

It’s nice that they’ve done this camp. I hate to think how much it costs. It’s too bad there aren’t more programs like this, especially for so-called “at risk” youth.

61. London Boulevard, directed by William Monahan (6/10)

This is one of those movies that makes you want to read the book, not because it’s so good you can’t help but read the book too, but because it leaves you wanting a lot more and you figure the book would provide it.

Now, I know nothing about the source material, but I have to imagine that these plot threads would be a little more fleshed out in a novel than they are here. That’s the principal flaw of the film: multiple plot strands – all involve Ferrell’s character – and not enough time to go around. So we practically forget about incidents that later are very important.

Fortunately the film doesn’t treat us like idiots. But I still think a longer film would have done the novel more justice. (Though, as I have said, I don’t know anything about the novel.) It feels like much of the story is lost in the 100 minutes – I figure the plot could have handled at least 130. And that’s really my only major criticism.

But this lack of attention to all threads is a huge, huge flaw, and the movie isn’t exactly confusing as a result, but it’s rushed and the motivations of all those involved are certainly confused. Lots of bit parts could have been fleshed out better, and certainly the core misunderstanding, among many in the plot, would make a little bit more sense if the whole thing just gestated longer.

62. Deep in the Woods, directed by Benoit Jacquot (6/10)

Deep in the Woods is one of those French films that is too ambiguous for its own good… with an awful lot of rape in it. It’s interesting but it’s vague.

It was provocative at least – 15 people walked out, something I will never understand as I have yet to see anything in a theatre that was so offensive I would give up my purchased ticket – but I don’t think that it had the message the director seemed to be claiming for it during the very odd – and mistranslated, no doubt – Q and A. He seemed to be claiming it was a comment on the state of narrative in the 21st century.

That’s not what I saw. What I saw was very deliberate ambiguity about whether this girl was abducted and raped against her consent or whether she wanted it. (The latter being the offensive part.)

63. Stone, directed by John Curran (6/10)

There are some funny moments at first but the tone rapidly turns serious.

This is one of the rare American movies that are too vague for their own good. I struggled with the meaning of the ending quite some time.

I must say that both lead performances are downright excellent, but the pseudo-mysticism of the movie didn’t gel with me, and if my interpretation of the ending is correct, I don’t think that I like it all that much. One to think about, anyway.

64. MacGruber, directed by Jorma Taccone (6/10)

I can’t say I was interested to see this. The SNL skit was probably the least likely to succeed SNL movie ever, given how short it is usually and how the plot never changes. However, somehow they turned it into one of the most successful SNL movies – damning with faint praise? This movie is dumb, but if you are not expecting dumb then I don’t really know what to tell you; it’s a parody of MacGyver, which was already insanely dumb.

As a dumb movie, it’s extremely effective. It is downright hilarious in the beginning and the end. It sags in the middle like so many comedy ideas stretched to feature length, but there are enough ridiculous gags in the climax to make up for that.

I’m not sure whether my favourite part is the recurring stereo gag or the graveyard scene. Either way, very enjoyable for what it is.

65. Lapland Odyssey, directed by Dome Karukoski (6/10)

I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much had it been in English, I hate to admit it.

66. Hot Tub Time Machine, directed by Steve Pink (6/10)

This is a pretty stupid movie, but then it’s called Hot Tub Time Machine, so it should be. It’s a little formulaic and it isn’t anywhere as sharp as it could be in its parodies of ’80s ski movies and time travel movies, but it still has a enough laughs to mostly make you forget about how it could have been a lot better.

It oddly takes itself a little too seriously / earnestly at times, but fortunately there’s enough crudeness to make up for that.

67. Despicable Me, directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud (6/10)

This is yet another one of these animated kids films that tries to appeal to parents as much as the children. This one is particularly odd as there are multiple jokes – and statements! – about the financial crisis, and rampant capitalism in general. And that’s really odd but it’s also not exactly consistent throughout the film, so at times it feels you are watching multiple different films.

The rest of it is pretty transparent, obvious and not particularly funny – I laughed, I think, 4 or 5 times, and although those jokes were pretty good most of the other jokes went down pretty awkwardly.

I get its appeal though, and I understand why it is so popular.

68. Rare Exports, directed by Jalmari Helander (6/10)

A unique Christmas fantasy film which is let down by its bizarre and nonsensical denouement. Read the review of Rare Exports.

69. Piranha 3D, directed by Alexandre Aja (6/10)

It’s a killer fish movie in 3-D.  I was thoroughly satisfied.

Yes, it could have been way better: way campier, way more internally consistent and it could have used 3-D better.  But so what?  It’s a bad movie and I was thoroughly entertained.  I laughed my ass off.  That’s all I wanted from it.

It ain’t Slither or Eight Legged Freaks, but so what?

70. Get Him to the Greek, directed by Nicholas Stoller (6/10)

I had no interest in this but it is hysterical. An utterly ridiculous movie but so what?

71. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, directed by Thor Freudenthal (6/10)

Lost my review; decent for what it is.

72. Green Zone, directed by Paul Greengrass (5/10)

This movie means well, I think. It’s trying to make the the giant fuck up with the (second? third?) Gulf War into an entertaining conspiracy/action movie starring everyone’s favourite Action Hero of the Moment, Matt Damon.

The rest of this review contains mild SPOILERS! Read it.

73. Iron Man 2, directed by Jon Favreau (5/10)

The title says it all. Read the review of Iron Man 2.

74. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, directed by Eli Craig (5/10)

This is an entertaining-if-dumb one-joke movie where the joke works pretty well.

The problem is that it is just a one-joke premise and they don’t do enough with it to make it deeper or funnier. If you don’t like the joke – or if you don’t find its constant repetition funny – you probably won’t find it funny.

I think that better filmmakers would have taken this joke and added to it or, better, yet structured the film in such a way that the joke wasn’t revealed in the first scenes, it might have been far funnier that way.

75. Outrage, directed by Takeshi Kitano (5/10)

Read the review of Outrage.

76. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, directed by Michael Apted (5/10)

Apted’s surer hand makes this possibly the best entry in the series – it’s obvious from the opening shot that a better director is involved.

Read the full review of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

77. Stake Land, directed by Jim Mickle (5/10)

It doesn’t really have much of a beginning; it just throws you right in.

This is a zombie vampire movie if I’ve ever seen one. The vampires act like zombies. I don’t really know what to make of it.

For an average-length movie it seemed to be missing an awful lot. I sort of liked that, actually. It wasn’t so heavy on plot like most vampire films.

But there were too many other issues. For example, the film breaks its own rules by introducing a super vampire when it’s necessary for the film to have some kind of climax.

I liked the ending though. On the whole it was just too messy to recommend in any way. Maybe if this guy makes a few more films he’ll figure out pacing and the niceties of editing. Until then…

78. Uninhabited, directed by Bill Bennett (5/10)

This has a surprisingly large number of jumpy moments for a movie with an utterly non-scary premise; I don’t know about you, but those tropical islands, coral reefs and gorgeous sunsets really fucking creep me out. (The film was shot on a place called Masthead Island in the Great Barrier Reef which, you can imagine, is pretty damn pretty.)

But pretty much everything in this movie is stolen from something: the whole thing is pretty much a tropical island version of Blair Witch but it is a really sad state of affairs when a movie set on a tropical island is stealing from Lost Highway of all things.

As usual the protagonists behave in horror movie cliches instead of how people might actually act and the whole thing ends in one of those cliche “surprise” endings that are so common in horror movies now as to just make you laugh.

But, despite all this unoriginality, I jumped a little and there, and I had some hair stand up, so it wasn’t all bad.

79. Heartbeats, directed by Xavier Dolan (5/10)

This is one of those love triangle films we have all seen a million times, where two people vie over another. But, wait, there’s a twist!

Read the rest of the review.

80. L’amour fou, directed by Pierre Thoretton (5/10)

I can’t tell if this documentary is more interested in Yves Saint Laurent or his art collection and his various houses. As told by his partner, this movie feels, at times, like it’s more about him and his memories / view of Saint Laurent than anything else. And then we get to watch the man become even more rich, as the auction of their art collection rakes in tens of millions.

If this is meant to a be a portrait of the man, it’s entirely too devoted to Pierre Berge and his own thoughts and feelings.

If this is meant to somehow be an attempt to condemn some aspect of how quickly Berge profited off of his partner, then it is way too obtuse.

81. Casino Jack, directed by George Hickenlooper (5/10)

Not as good as the documentary. Read the review of Casino Jack.

82. Three Stars, directed by Lutz Hackmeister (5/10)

This film is a mess. It was clearly made for TV and then expanded into a feature. And it is painfully obvious that it wasn’t expanded successfully. The narration reeks of TV “news magazine” reports. The film eschews all music and then suddenly becomes montage-heavy for the last third. The subtitles are sporadic and sometimes incorrect. It’s badly organized. The sound even cuts out a few times.

And that’s too bad because it is an endlessly fascinating subject. I could have watched a whole series on it if only it had been made better. Certainly there is enough controversy here to make the Mondo Vino of Michelin Guides. But not with these filmmakers.

83. Candyman, directed by Costa Botes (5/10)

A mess. Read the review of Candyman.

84. Bill Maher: “…But I’m Not Wrong”, directed by John Moffitt (4/10)

The Zip.ca user Parallax abstraction was right when he wrote his review many years ago:

While Bill Maher’s schtick is taking blunt political commentary (that I largely agree with) and wrapping it in jokes, he largely seems to have forgotten the second part this time around. Victory Begins At Home made some very cogent arguments but was also really funny too. This time, it’s just stab after stab and his attempts at jokes are really just bits of sarcastic tone that add no real humour value and are mostly just to tip the audience off that it’s time to applaud as if at a political rally (though he regularly makes a point of saying it isn’t one). His New Rules rants are the end of episodes of Real Time are funnier than this. I can respect comedians with the guts to base their material around tearing apart powerful people but this isn’t really comedy, it’s just an hour long, uncensored rant like you’d see on a cable news show.

If all you’re looking for is an hour and a bit of Bill Maher ripping into Republicans and religious people, you’ve got it here. If you’re also looking for him to be a comedian, I think you’d be better off watching one of his other DVDs or just an episode of Real Time if you can get HBO.

I agree with Maher on a lot – perhaps most – of his political views. But I want my comedy to be edgy and provocative and, funnily enough, funny. I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what Maher says, but rarely laughing. I did laugh out loud maybe five or six times before the encore, which is far and away the funniest part of the performance. It’s not so funny that it’s worth sitting through the first hour+ for, but it’s funny.

So this is unfortunate: I feel like I have heard most of this before on Larry King or on his show or on his blog or in his movie, and I feel like it could have been a lot sharper. Basically he is just preaching to a choir here. And also, the material has dated since it was filmed (obviously going to happen with topical comedy).

85. Salt, directed by Phillip Noyce (4/10)

This is one of those movies where everyone is double crossing everyone else and, if you think about the triple cross at the heart of this movie…well, it sure doesn’t make much sense.

Everything is competent: there’s a great cast, giving their all, and the production values are high. But the plot is dumb and the feats required of Salt to accomplish everything she sets out to are superhuman.

I could take this or leave it. It’s yet another action spy movie and I really don’t know why it’s any different than any other.

86. Vegucated, directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson (4/10)

This is an advocacy film for veganism. However, if you are vegan and thinking of watching it, know that it is directed at non-vegans and may feel condescending if you have, say, seen Food Inc.

The film is too focused on the director – frankly until the “contest” started, I really didn’t give a shit what her personal choices were. It fails to adequately show whether or not Miller Wolfson chose a reasonable set of people who could be expected to be dubious about the diet.

The filmmakers fail to understand that people make the choices they make by habit and circumstances, and that preaching at them won’t necessarily win them over – and the film actually shows that they need actual experiences to convert themselves. It is way too expensive for anyone to recruit people to test out vegan diets – and get “vegucated” – and so that isn’t a realistic possibility.

But people aren’t going to watch this and think “Oh I better not eat meat!” if they can still eat meat cheaply and easily. The problems with the factory farm industry – and the nutritional problems with processed foods, which these vegans appear to ignore – need to be addressed through the democratic process – i.e. telling your representative you won’t vote for him or her if she keeps allowing certain farming practices to be legal – and through shopping choices most of us are too poor to make, not through lecturing..

87. The Expendables, directed by Sylvester Stallone (4/10)

I had heard lots of great things about this:

  • about how it was the return of the ’80s actioner,
  • about how clever it was,
  • how it tells us something about the value of films with real stunts,
  • etc.

Well, it certainly is a return of the ’80s actioner. But if you, like me, enjoyed Predator for how bad it is, then this movie is not meant for you. It’s all very competent but it’s not particularly clever, it’s only mildly funny, and it also hilariously naive in the same manner as those ’80s actioners it is celebrating. “I don’t care if you blow up my home as long as you rescue me from those evil drug dealers!”

88. Tomorrow, When the War Began, directed by Stuart Beattie (4/10)

Someone should get sued…

This film, based on a 1993 novel, bears a huge, uncanny resemblance to the original Red Dawn, released in 1984. Now maybe the author had never seen Red Dawn, but I have a really hard time believing that given how closely this film resembles that bad ’80s movie. My one thought is perhaps the filmmakers had seen it and so in adapting it they chose to echo a few scenes in particular. But I am very, very skeptical that nobody involved was aware of the existence of a near-exact similar film. This feels like Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, albeit closer.

Anyway, the film is actually significantly better than Red Dawn:

  • though the plot is still absurd, and though the idea that teenagers can handle trained armies just because they are free teenagers remains a ridiculous and dangerous myth, more – hardly all – of the plot is handled better;
  • there is a huge amount of character development for something like this and, if you didn’t know the title of the film, the invasion might take you by surprise, as the film feels like a teen horror movie setup or a teen sex comedy setup for the first 20 minutes or so;
  • the kids have their own hideout that makes it a lot more believable why they can’t be found by vastly superior forces;
  • the ending is significantly more plausible than that of Red Dawn – which is not saying anything, I know – and therefore somewhat less offensive than the movie that this is likely ripping off.

89. Black Death, directed by Christopher Smith (4/10)

Lost my review. (I know I wrote one but I don’t know where it went.)

89. Dream Home, directed by Ho-Cheung Pang (4/10)

There is nothing redeeming about this film. A lady doesn’t get her dream home and goes on a killing spree. Except we know she goes on the spree from the very first and there is utterly no suspense to anything.

The only thing positive to say is that the gore standard is up to Japanese horror films. And that’s hardly a positive thing when you are trying to make a point about real estate bubbles…

90. Shrine, directed by Jon Knautz (4/10)

Yet another “ooh Eastern Europe is really spooky” movie. I don’t get it.

But anyway: there is maybe one good “start” in this and the rest of the time the few attempted scares fall flat. But there aren’t even that many. There’s just the usual gore, only less of it than the torture porn. The plot is brutally telegraphed. We know they’re going to Poland. We know they’re going in the fog. We figured out what the fog did to them way before we should have. Etc.


91. The Myth of the American Sleepover, directed by David Robert Mitchell (4/10)

I know I wrote this review too, but again it is missing from the sites I used to use. Grr.

92. Gulliver’s Travels, directed by Rob Letterman (4*/10)

So this has very little to do with the original story, beyond the small and large people.

Aside from that, most of the humour falls flat (or is intended for a younger audience) and way too much of the whole thing relies on how much you like Jack Black (as you can tell from other reviewer’s responses). This is what happens when some executive somewhere decides to make kids movies out of literature. The world is clearly better for it.

Note: The asterisk is for the fact that I watched it on a plane and maybe didn’t hate it as much as I should have.

93. Predators, directed by Nimrod Antal (3/10)

The film opens with a pretty high concept beginning that should work wonders. I would have loved to be in the meeting where someone introduced this idea and everyone went crazy over it, and then someone else decided that the the idea would suit the Predator franchise perfectly. Only in Hollywood. This beginning – which has a hell of a lot of potential – and the first quarter or so of the movie – are rendered utterly pointless by the title and ad campaign, which answered all the questions the filmmakers and cast posit. We know why they’re there from before we’ve seen the film, so why even bother trying to create that suspense?

This is the softest kind of science fiction. The sun doesn’t move… except when it sets of course. The only time they actually can see the other planets in the system is when they are looking at a mountain. How does that make any sense?

The last third of the film is unbelievably dark to the point where you cannot see anything. It is impossible to tell the two different predators apart.

The one thing I may say of it that is positive is that the ending is far better than it should be. It’s not good, but at least it’s not as terrible as how it could have ended (and how it looked like it would end).

94. Clash of the Titans, directed by Louis Leterrier (3/10)

Read the review of Clash of the Titans.

95. The Dead Undead, directed by Matthew R. Anderson, Edward Conna (1/10)

“We call them ZVs; Zombie Vampires.”

I am struggling with whether this is a 1/10 or a 2/10. The reason being is that despite how terrible this movie is, I felt like there were glimmers of bad-but-not-terrible-ness. For example: I laughed at at least one of their jokes, and I felt like a little bit (I stress ‘a little bit’) of the dialogue was actually at least well-intentioned, if not average. In fact, I was so sure there were glimpses of hope that I got in an argument with the wife about whether it was just bad or all-time bad. (She says it’s all-time bad.)

But the fact remains that this movie is about 18 different ideas (scenes, set-pieces) connected to each other through some terrible devices: primarily people shooting automatic weapons at the “ZVs” and inanimate objects – you will never see so many pointless shots of people shooting guns outside of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about a firing range – but also flashbacks! To the Vikings! Nam! The Old West! All of which appear to resemble southern California! Most of the acting is beyond bad and the cast appears to rotate.

So at the end of the day, I agree with her. This is all-time bad. What the plot summary on Netflix should say is “A bunch of stunt doubles and coordinators pool their money to make a movie with their friends on a shoestring budget. You won’t know what’s going to happen next because they forgot to add a cohesive narrative. Oh, and they spent more money on the cover-art than they did on the movie.”

96. Stonehenge Apocalypse, directed by Paul Ziller (1/10)

How do I put into words how monumentally dumb this movie is? I’m not really sure. It’s one of those films that you want to live blog or live tweet because of the inane/insane lines, the utter ignorance of scientific facts and the budget (and what that budget forces the characters to do/say). It’s just awful.

There’s stuff about Stonehenge detonating volcanoes and destroying the world. There’s stuff about a map that is among the most poorly drawn maps I think I’ve seen in a movie. There’s a hilarious (willful?) ignorance about how governments work. There’s the totally awful CGI (though the plane’s CGI is relatively decent). And there’s the international flights between the UK and Maine that do not appear to happen – characters literally just leave “Salisbury” and magically appear in Maine and vice versa.

97. Birdemic: Shock and Terror, directed by James Nguyen (1/10)

It’s true what you’ve heard. This is one of the worst movies ever made. Read the review of Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

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