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2010 Movie Reviews

December 27, 2010

Black Swan (2010)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Director: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain)
Quick Thoughts: This movie plays like the sister film of Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. Much like that film, we get a tour-de-force performance from the film’s star and an intense look at what it’s like to be insanely passionate about something. In this case, Natalie Portman’s Nina Sayers is a technically perfect ballet dancer that lacks the free spirit and dark side required to play the dual role of The Swan Queen in Swan Lake. Mila Kunis plays a rival ballet dancer and acts as the catalyst that slowly unravels Nina’s dark side. Or does she? It’s hard to tell what’s real and imagined in this film, but the transformation of Portman’s character is clear. What were left with is a ridiculously dark and horrifying film about how far some people will go to achieve their dreams.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Hard to say… it’s a tough watch, but it’s something you’ll need to see more than once. I think it has potential to grow on me over time.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Portman is a front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar and gave the best performance I’ve seen this year. The film is a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination as well… and Aronofsky could get an overdo directing nomination.
Nudity: Some masturbation, some girl-on-girl action, but no nudity that I remember.
Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)
Recommendation: Film snobs are going to love this movie, but casual moviegoers are likely to hate it. It’s unlikely anyone watches this and says “it was okay.” I’d say it’s a must see for Natalie Portman’s performance alone, but it’s definitely not an easy film. I’d say go see it, but it’s super dark and features an unreliable narration, so be warned.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Starring: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong
Director: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun Of The Dead)
Quick Thoughts: No movie has surprised me more this year than Scott Pilgrim. What an amazingly innovative film. While the plot about a boy (man?) that must battle his girlfriend’s evil exes to the death may sound trivial, the execution is outstanding. Edgar Wright’s team brings this story to life in such a way that boredom is out of the question. The filmmaker combines comic book flair with video game stylization and a hilarious script to create one of the year’s most fun theatrical experiences. Michael Cera has been typecast ever since Superbad and this was the first performance since then where I felt he brought something new to the table. The script is sharp and funny, and the cast does a stellar job bringing that humor to life. I was using the rewind button on my remote extensively. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is one of the best films of the year and one of the most unique movies I’ve seen in quite some time.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: A must own. I could watch this repeatedly.
Sequel Potential: Unsure… it’s based on a comic or a graphic novel, but I’m not sure if there’s a series.
Oscar Potential: I’d nominate this for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and a ton of technical categories, but early buzz has it getting mostly snubbed by the Academy. Sad.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 8.5/10 (Excellent/Potential Classic)
Recommendation: One of my favorite movies of the year, but it’s kind of “out there,” so I can see some people not liking it. Personally, I’d consider those people uptight… or stupid. Sorry.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon)
Quick Thoughts: An interesting story about a sperm donor who comes into contact with his teenage children and their lesbian mothers combines with great acting from Bening and Moore to make a quick-paced, intriguing movie that focuses on its characters. I was slightly unsatisfied with the ending, but definitely enjoyed the movie as a whole.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d watch it again, but probably won’t add it to my DVD collection.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Bening and Moore are locks for acting nominations. The film should get a Best Picture nom; it easily cracks my top ten of the year. Outside shots at directing and writing nominations.
Nudity: Is Julianne Moore in it? Is it rated R? Then she probably gets naked.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
Recommendation: One of the better movies of 2010, but it focuses more on characters and acting than anything else. I don’t think the story is universally appealing, but it’s worth telling. Action junkies shouldn’t bother, but fans of good dramas will like this movie.

The Karate Kid (2010)

Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Director: Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks)
Quick Thoughts: A surprisingly solid remake of the 1984 cult classic. I never would have watched this if the word-of-mouth wasn’t so good. Jaden Smith is solid as the title character and Jackie Chan makes for a decent Mr. Miyagi substitute. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the original… I can barely remember it, so I was able to enjoy this update without any bias based on the source material. An enjoyable family movie that had me rooting for the underdog.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’d be happy to watch it again… and maybe even buy it when it hits the bargain bins.
Sequel Potential: The first film spawned three sequels and this remake grossed over $175 million in the U.S., so a sequel seems likely, but the story was completely resolved and nothing has been announced so far.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A solid family film and surprisingly good remake. Great for kids and more than watchable for adults.

Jackass 3D (2010)

Starring: The Jackass Crew
Director: Jeff Tremaine (Jackass: The Movie, Jackass Number Two)
Quick Thoughts: You pretty much know what you’re getting from a Jackass movie: crazy stunts and some serious gross-out bits. It’s more of the same here… but in 3D! With the exception of Avatar this was actually the best 3D experience I’ve had, so the novelty actually makes the movie more enjoyable. This entry is just as funny as the previous films and a couple of the scenes literally made me gag; consider that fair warning on The Sweat Suit.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ve never watched a Jackass movie more than once, but I could understand the appeal.
Sequel Potential: These guys are all getting older, but they all still seem pretty willing to take a beating.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: Lots of penis.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
Recommendation: Fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed and anyone that hasn’t already been initiated into the Jackass world should probably continue to stay away.

Machete (2010)

Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan
Director: Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Planet Terror, Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn)
Quick Thoughts: A rugged revenge film with the feel of a B-movie. Danny Trejo plays a bad ass ex-federale on a mission to kill those that betrayed him and anyone stepping in his way. This is a pure action film and doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s still impressive that Robert Rodriguez was able to piece together a decent feature film from what originated as a two-minute trailer for the Grindhouse movies (I’d rather see Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving myself). The acting is mediocre, but no one is trying too hard and there is something hilarious about Steven Seagal playing Mexicano. I liked it, but at 105 minutes, it does run a little long for something that lacks any substance.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ll definitely watch it again.
Sequel Potential: $27 million U.S. gross? I’d say no.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: Tons of nudity. Lindsay Lohan’s character gets very naked, but the use of a body double is debatable. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez look sexy as fuck. Great movie for exploiting gorgeous women!
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
Recommendation: A great movie for action junkies, but there’s little else to be seen here.

The Expendables (2010)

Starring: Every action star ever
Director: Sylvester Stallone (Rambo, Rocky Balboa)
Quick Thoughts: This movie would have been a lot cooler if it was made about 15 years ago. Basically, what’s happening here is you have every iconic action star from the 80s teaming up with a few of the past decade’s top action stars and forming a top secret tactical unit set out to take on someone somewhere for whatever reason. Honestly, who cares about a plot when you have this kind of cast? Apparently Sylvester Stallone does and that’s where this movie fails. Unlike Machete, this movie takes itself way too seriously. There’s too much down time and “plot development” in a movie that should be 98% kicking ass. The Expendables had some good scenes, but I spent a lot of time thinking about other things when I was watching this movie.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: If I could edit this down to about 30 minutes of pure action, I’d watch it again.
Sequel Potential: The Expendables 2 has already been announced and has a tentative 2012 release date.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: I can’t remember.
Grade: 4/10 (Netflix It)
Recommendation: Another action movie that lacks substance. I’d recommend it for nostalgia purposes, but even with low expectations, I was disappointed.

Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
Director: Brandon Vietti (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, The Batman)
Quick Thoughts: A great take on the Batman/Red Hood story line that finds Batman pitted against a formidable and resourceful Red Hood, an enemy that seems to know more about Batman than he should. While Batman stalwarts Kevin Conroy (as Batman) and Mark Hammil (as The Joker) are both absent, the new voice cast does a respectable job… but it’s the story that makes this a great Batman movie. Considering it was a straight-to-DVD release, it’s still one of the better movies I’ve seen this year and probably the best Batman animated film since Mask Of The Phantasm all the way back in 1993.
Viewings: 3
Replay Value: I rented it and watched it three times before I sent it back. I’ll buy it soon enough and it’s a must have for any Batman fan.
Sequel Potential: There will always be more animated Batman movies, but this story had a pretty solid conclusion.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: N/A.
Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)
Recommendation: A clear must own for fans of Batman and comic book films, but I’d also recommend this to just about anyone. Very good.

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