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 nitpicky 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: read the rest of the review.

 

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. Read the rest of the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

12. 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.

 

13. 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.

 

14. 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?

 

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

A great coming of age tale. Read the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

17. 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.

 

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

Read the review.

 

19. 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.

 

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

Read the review.

 

21. 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.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

Lost my review. Very pleasantly surprised.

 

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

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

 

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

Read the review.

 

26. 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.

Read the full review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

I always want to like his movies. Read the rest of the review.

 

29. 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.

 

30. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

31. 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.

 

32. 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.

 

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

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

Read the rest of the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

35. 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.

 

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

So the school narrative has been dropped, finally. Read the full review.

 

37. 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 nitpicky, but it just seemed like the whole thing might have been put together better.

 

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

A lot of fun.

 

39. 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.

 

40. 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.  Read the rest of the review.

 

41. 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.

Read the rest of the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

I have two theories about this very strange, but entertaining and affecting, film: read the review.

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

Read the review.

 

45. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

46. 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.
Read the full review.

 

47. 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.)

 

48. 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.

 

49. 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.

 

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

I can’t say I was interested to see this. Read the rest of the review.

 

51. 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.

 

52. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

53. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

54. 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?

 

55. 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?

 

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

Lost my review; decent for what it is.

 

57. 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.

 

58. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

60. 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.

 

61. 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…

 

61. 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.

Read the rest of the review.

 

63. 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.

 

64. 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. Read the rest of the review.

 

65. 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.

 

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

Parallax abstraction is right:

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).

 

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

Read the brief review.

 

68. 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.

Read the full review.

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

Someone should get sued…

Read the full review.

 

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

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

 

72. 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…

 

73. 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. Boo.

 

74. 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.

 

75. 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.

 

76. 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).

 

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

Read the review.

 

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

I am struggling with whether this is a 1/10 or a 2/10.

Red the full review.

 

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

Read the review.

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