e. magill's                        

The Unapologetic Geek


The Movies of 2010

As a new stay-at-home father-slash-househusband, I don't get as many chances to go to the movies as I used to. Still, I managed to catch ten films that were released this year (a couple of which were through DVD releases). I may not have seen all the big Oscar contenders, there are a few flicks I wish I'd had the opportunity to check out, and one or two of the movies I did see this year were seen solely for their entertainment value. 2010 seemed to be a decent enough year in film, though it will probably be some time before Hollywood--and my lifestyle--matches 2008 in terms of sheer cinematic awesomeness.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Release Date: Mar 5
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $116.1
To-date: $334.2

There's nothing especially wrong with Alice in Wonderland, but I still can't say I'm enthusiastic about it. Perhaps if Tim Burton had made it a decade ago, or perhaps if it wasn't another one of his love-fest tributes to Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (though, to be fair, they are both great, especially Carter's Red Queen), I would feel better about it. The fact remains that I used to adore Tim Burton movies, but now, I'm just tired of him doing the exact same thing with every film. Alice in Wonderland is a movie that didn't really need to be made, as the animated version still holds up and nothing about this new take seems especially daring or interesting. Maybe I've let my desire to see American Magee's twisted interpretation on the big screen get in the way, but Burton's just feels safe. Kids and Burton/Depp fanatics are sure to enjoy it, at least. Granted, the visual effects are stunning, but it takes more than pretty pictures to make a good movie.

The Book of Eli
Release Date: Jan 15
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $32.8
To-date: $94.8

I understand completely what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish with this film, and for many individual scenes, they succeeded. Denzel Washington is surprisingly bad-ass and Gary Oldman hasn't lost his ability to play a great villain. The washed out post-apocalyptic setting is very well-rendered and reminiscent of Mad Max or Fallout 3, and the final act has some really neat story beats. Still, as a whole, the movie feels a little sloppy. It drags pointlessly for several tedious moments, especially in the first act, and when all is said and done, it doesn't feel like much has actually happened. The whole movie could be compressed into the third act of a better film, and much of the story's lumbering around and preachiness could be streamlined into something a little more action-oriented. The fatal flaw in The Book of Eli is that it can never decide what it wants to be: a post-apocalyptic Western, an epic about religion, or just an action movie that happens to take place after the apocalypse. If the filmmakers had stuck with just one of these, the movie could have been great.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Release Date: Nov 19
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $125.0
To-date: $265.7

Looked at as an adaptation of J.K. Rowling, this film is probably the most faithful of all the Harry Potter movies to date. Looked at as a kid's movie, it's very dark--almost joyless--and a bit on the long side. However, much of the story's darkness is absolutely necessary for the second part, so that the stakes are clear and the joy can be released at the end (spoiler!). The film makes a lot of very good choices, like changing locations constantly while our heroes are trying to figure out what to do next. What in the book takes place almost entirely in a forest setting is moved all over the place, from the forest to a cliffside to a beach and more. This helps break up the monotony without losing the important sense of helplessness and frustration that defines the characters. Speaking of which, actor Rupert Grint nearly steals the movie as Ron, which is incredibly surprising considering that his role has been little more than comic relief for six movies. While the story sometimes feels like it's spinning its wheels, there is a lot going on and a lot of characters to keep track of. It's all handled well, and if you can stomach the bleek storm before the calm, this is a great flick that is much more than just a kid's movie.

Release Date: Jul 16
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $62.8
To-date: $292.5

Impossibly imaginative and visually staggering, Inception is the best movie I've seen all year. Yes, it can be compared to fluff like Dreamscape, and it's technobabble and multiple layers of reality can seem pretty ridiculous if you're not fully invested in the story. But if you look at it that way, you miss what makes the film so good. It takes ideas that are radically original and throws them on the screen as if it is the simplest thing in the world, all while dressing up a very simple love story, and that, my dear readers, is filmmaking at its finest. Director Christopher Nolan has proved that he should have an amazing career after Batman, just as he proved that Memento was no flash in the pan.

Iron Man 2
Release Date: May 7
Domestic Box Office (in millions)
Opening weekend: $128.1
To-date: $312.1

As sequels go, Iron Man 2 is pretty good. It ramps up the action, adds more villains, and gives the hero a slightly darker character, as all comic book sequels do, but if it ain't broken, why fix it? In short, if you like the original Iron Man, you'll like Iron Man 2. I especially loved the villains: Mickey Roarke's Ivan Vanko is great and Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer--complete with fake tanner on his palms--is fabulously amusing. The climax is better than the original's, but the final fight with Vanko feels a little quick, especially after such a long lead-up to it. Don Cheadel succeeds in the unforgiving task of replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey, the S.H.E.I.L.D. subplot with Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson is not overly complicated or tangental, and Robert Downey Jr., of course, shines as Tony Stark.

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-e. magill 12/21/2010


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