The year in review – Part One

I thought I’d do something a little different this year as we near the end of December.  There will still be my final Top Ten of 2010, but for now I thought I’d offer a critical look back on the movies I have watched since January.  Note:  This is not a review of movies released in 2010, as there’s many I haven’t been able to see, rather this is a look at what movies I’ve seen that have impressed me, regardless of original release date.

January – March

Probably one of the best movies of this first quarter, has to be the French true-life gangster epic Mesrine.  With a career defining performance from Vincent Cassell, and an entertaining, epic story spanning two films (Killer Instinct, followed by Public Enemy No.1) this was a remarkable achievement.  Despite Mesrine’s criminal adventures, murders and total disregard for the law, he’s someone the viewer can’t help but like.

Following this as another definite highlight would be Park Chan Wook’s unique vampire movie Thirst, part erotic love story, part gore-drenched horror, this at times comical and strange film certainly offers a more raw and satisfying take on the vampire myth than the navel gazing hormonal yearnings of Twilight.

I also really enjoyed The Hangover, which for me, someone who doesn’t always enjoy comedies, is really saying something.  The cast and the overall concept is quality and there’s plenty of moments here that will raise a smile and get you laughing until it hurts.  It also doesn’t fall into the trappings of many modern comedies these days, that being toilet humour and loads of swearing.

Shutter Island marked another impressive performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, and again, assured, atmospheric direction from one of the masters – Martin Scorsese.  The nightmare dream sequences should be applauded for their etherial beauty and the twisting storyline for its shock ending.  Above all else though, this is quality entertainment from start to finish.

Probably one of the most purely enjoyable films of the year has to be Zombieland, a tongue-in-cheek comedy caper that is so the U.S. answer to Shaun Of The Dead it’s not even subtle.  Makes Jessie Eisenberg one of the more interesting young stars, defined Emma Stone as this year’s poster girl, and proves there’s still plenty of life left in Woody Harrelson.

Now look back at 2010 would be complete without mentioning the effortlessly cool and enjoyable Kick-Ass, a movie that spins the Superhero movie on its head and in Chloe Moretz’ Hit-Girl creates a new cult icon in the process.   Daring, stylish, action-packed and funny as hell. 

April – June

One of the most thought-provoking sci-fi movies of the year has to be Moon.  Claustrophobic, beautifully made and genuinely touching, with one of the best twist endings I’ve ever witnessed – this is quality cinematic storytelling with an incredible performance from Sam Rockwell.  Shame it’s also one of those movies that many people won’t even know about.

Robert Downey Jr’s appearance as the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes proved two things – that Downey Jr was a perfect choice to play the legendary sleuth, and that director Guy Ritchie was back on form.  Jude Law’s Doctor Watson brings the tired old character kicking and screaming into the modern age, and with stunning period detail, big budget set pieces and plenty of style, humour and glamour – this was gem.

Prison drama A Prophet was a compelling, well made and engrossing tale of prison life and one young guy’s journey into the criminal underworld.  A startling performance from newcomer Tahir Rahim and impressive, slow-burning direction from Jacques Audiard made this a movie that certainly leaves its mark. 

Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation The Princess and the Frog was also a return to the all-singing, all dancing musicals of its classic era.  Very funny and beautiful to look at, with most importantly great musical numbers and a heart warming story – this was great entertainment.


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