The Top 25 Movies of 2010
Never recreate places from your memory. Always imagine new places!
Depending on what you read and where you read it, the Film Industry is in crisis. DVD sales have slumped dramatically as Piracy continues to rise, the UK Film Council is to be abolished, outside financing has literally ground to a halt in Hollywood and a flood of 3-D converted movies has created the inevitable backlash from old school directors and the like.
In this turbulent maelstrom, you would be forgiven for thinking 2010 was a bad year for movies and whilst there were few out and out classics kicking about, there was still a great deal of inventiveness, originality and bold filmmaking going on.
This is my personal list of the Top 25 Movies of the Year. All the films listed went on general release in the UK in 2010 (excluding any film festival first showings).
As always the list is subjective and there is a few curveballs in there along with some notable omissions, Hope you enjoy reading and please let me know your feelings.
The Rainbow Nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here.
Starring:Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge.
There is much to admire and enthuse about in Clint Eastwoods Biopic turned underdog sports movie. Invictus is a well-paced, cannily directed and engaging drama which just happens to be pretty much true.
Morgan Freeman was born to play Mandela and his performance is exemplary, whereas Matt Damon personifies a genuine rugby player.
Bucking the usual trend of sports movies, the Rugby scenes seem genuine and meticulously staged and the rousing and inspiring finale is an example of subtle and mature filmmaking.
Invictus is not without its flaws though, the music soundtrack is pretty bad and the CGI crowd at the rugby matches is a little off-putting, but this movie is a genuinely heartfelt attempt to portray one of the most important men of the 20th Century and his attempt to unite a great nation.
Although it's not mentioned in the film, apparently half of the All Blacks Rugby team were struck down with food poisoning just before the game and many New Zealanders believe this may have been the reason they lost the game.
Invictus at Amazon
24 The Lovely Bones
I wasn't lost, or frozen, or gone... I was alive; I was alive in my own perfect world.
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan, Rose McIver, Christian Ashdale, Reece Ritchie
After the CGI excess of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong, director Peter Jackson brings to the screen the "unfilmable" version of Alice Sebold's best seller. A film more in keeping with Jacksons "Heavenly Creatures" (which just happens to be the best film of the nineties), the Lovely Bones is a visually stunning yet ultimately muddled tale of a serial killer who preys on children, the hereafter and the effect of the death of a loved one on a close knit family. It's a highly ambitious and courageous piece of filmmaking which never quite knows the road it is taking. Is it a disturbing fantasy or a whimsical murder mystery, The Lovely Bones is an aloof and morally ambiguous movie which nevertheless is highly watchable and painstakingly distressing.
The Lovely Bones At Amazon
How far would you go to win the ultimate job?
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Starring:Adar Beck, Gemma Chan,Nathalie Cox ,Colin Salmon, Jimi Mistry, Luke Mably.
Surprisingly enjoyable psychological thriller which belies its modest budget.
Billed (quite rightly so) as "The Apprentice goes to hell", Exam is a slick well-made and intriguing little movie which with the help of sharp editing and clever cinematography uses its single location to maximum effect.
Taken as a morality play or a character study. Exam stutters a little towards the end as it strives hard for a satisfactory resolution but this is still an accomplished debut from director Hazeldine who becomes a name to watch.
A genuinely gripping and likeable little film which can hold its head up high with any number of Hollywood blockbusters.
22 The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Daddy, I`m okay, they just took me.
Director: J Blakeson
Starring:Eddie Marsan, Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a gritty, brutal thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the tension cranked up to the maximum.
A simplistic, compact drama which hinges on 3 superior acting performances that turn this low key thriller into a taut efficient and highly enjoyable crackerjack of a film.
Occasionally pushes the edge of plausibility and occasionally threatens to teeter out of control, TDOAC is nevertheless a shot in the arm for the British Crime genre which sometimes finds itself mired in second rate Essex gangster territory.
Compact, tense and deceptively sure of itself, The Disappearance of Alice Creed genuinely deserves a wider audience.
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed At Amazon
21 Whip It
Nice jump, Evel Knievel.
Starring: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden,Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore,Juliette Lewis.
Whilst hardly original or groundbreaking, Whip It is still highly infectious and solidly entertaining. A Chick Flick for sure, the movie still has enough heart, warmth and energy to win over the fiercest of audiences.
A coming of age story highlighting a sport only the Americans could have invented although you don't have to have an intimate knowledge of Roller Derby to enjoy this movie which is unexpectedly moving, humorous and indisputably invigorating.
Barrymore's directorial debut is an assured and spirited effort with a genuine slice of serious girl power.
Whip It At Amazon
This used to be a Gentleman's game.
Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring:Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, James Remar, Julian McMahon, Mary Louise Parker.
High concept action movie which sails along with the help of some serious *star* power. The aging yet highly impressive ensemble seem to be having so much fun, its difficult not to watch without a smile on your face. Director Robert Schwentke adapts the considerably darker source material (from a graphic novel by Warren Ellis) and delivers a slick, witty and cool mayhem filled blockbuster.
Red won't ruffle the feathers of the awards committee but if you're looking for a purely entertaining ride with genuine movie stars, big explosions, large guns and a decent plot which doesn't rely on cardboard cut out villains, then this will be right up your street.
Red At Amazon
She`ll stop at Nothing
Starring:Bin Won, Kim Hye-Ja, Jin Goo.
An incredibly well-crafted South Korean movie with enough surprises, twists and shocks to keep the viewer guessing right up until the end credits.
A fascinating vignette on life in modern day Korea punctuated by pitch black humour, random acts of violence and psychological suspense on a Hitchcockian scale.
An amalgamation of genres, Mother contains one of the performances of the year; Hye-ja Kim is gloriously understated as a cross between Miss Marple and Kathy Bates from Misery and steals the show in this visually stunning movie which is disturbing, deceptive and deliriously dark.
Mums the word for this cracking movie
Mother At Amazon
18 The Crazies
Don't ask me why I can't leave without my wife and I won't ask you why you can.
Starring:Timothy Olyphant,Radha Mitchell,Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker.
The Crazies follows a well worn route of recent years. A mediocre seventies semi horror flick re-made with a bigger budget, classier effects and substantially more blood and guts. Unlike many of its predecessors, though, the Crazies is actually pretty good. Doing away with the political overtones generated by George A Romero's 1973 flick, this is a tight, tense and unsettling horror film which demands attention.
Jettisoning characterisation, plot and explanations, the Crazies slams the viewer into a paranoia induced roller coaster ride into hell.
Slick, fast paced and ultimately thought provoking, this becomes one of the best horror films of the year.
The Crazies at Amazon
17 A Prophet
One Man Will Learn The Rules That You Follow If You Want To Survive
Starring:Tahar Rahim,Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi.
Bucking the worldwide trend, French Cinema is currently enjoying something of a renascence period. Picture House attendance in France is currently at its highest for over 30 years and French Movies make up over a third of all the movies watched there.
Recently, a move to more grittier realistic thrillers dealing with problems such as race and urban decay have surfaced in France and have taken the birthplace of cinema in a new direction.
Multi award winning "A Prophet" is a hard edged and socially aware Prison movie which metamorphoses into a gangster epic worthy of standing toe to toe with the very best.
A mesmerising lead performance from Tahar Rahim, which blends wide eyed innocence with a resourcefulness and aggressive streak helps to propel the movie forward creating a haunting and raw take on life in the prison System.
A Prophet strives to attain epic status but falls marginally short due to it's over length and the lack of any genuinely sympathetic characters. Nevertheless, this is a gritty, realistic and harrowing drama which justifies the hype associated with it.
A Prophet at Amazon
This business transaction, which is what this was, is over!
Starring:Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried.
Erotically charged and intriguing thriller which hinges on a couple of dynamite acting performances, one from Julianne Moore (surely the best actress in America today) and the other a surprisingly vulnerable and seductive Seyfield.
A genuinely evocative and tantalising slow burning story which follows the well worn path of infidelity and betrayal is powered by genuine sexual chemistry between its two female leads. Chloe at times wavers between the implausible and the sensuous, sometimes in the same scene and while it's undeniably titillating, it's also immensely watchable.
Earning brownie points for its use of Toronto's snow swept streets, this movie may be the ultimate guilt trip but the journey sure as hell evokes a certain amount of pleasure.
Chloe At Amazon
Keeping A Neighbourhood Watch
Director: Gerard Johnson
Starring;Peter Ferdinando,Ricky Grover, Mark Mooney.
A chilling and macabre movie detailing the life of an outsider on the edge of society. The depressingly shot streets of London serve as the haunting location for a story about an unremarkable loner who just happens to be a serial killer. As Tony, Peter Ferdinando`s performance is exemplary as he runs a the full range of emotions ranging from chilling and downright scary to humorous and almost kind natured. The movie may be a thinly disguised social commentary ( although Tony is a mass murdering sociopath, he is also probably the most likeable guy in the film) commenting on the meaningless existence and loneliness of the socially inept in 21st Century London, but it simply works best as a modern day horror movie. A cracking music score (strangely reminiscent of the original Halloween) and a number of 80s action movie references all help to make Tony one of the surprise movies of the year.
Tony At Amazon
That's the most boring goldfish I've ever seen in my entire life!
Voices (English Version): Cate Blanchett,Noah Lindsey Cyrus,Matt Damon,Tina Fey,Frankie Jonas,Liam Neeson,Cloris Leachman,Lily Tomlin, Betty White.
Finally released in the UK in February 2010, Ponyo is a magically animated picture made by the Japanese film studio "Studio Ghibli" (best known for its pictures, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle).
Coming across as fantastically inventive, the simplistic yet stunning animation puts to shame the CGI rendered big budget American fare that is churned out on a too frequent basis.
Tapping into the unique imagination of young children, Ponyo develops as a story brimming with joy and wonderment.
Superbly translated into English by a strong name cast, this is a movie which transcends the age barrier without the need for the obligatory wink to an adult audience.
Sit back and behold a movie which defies convention and sits quite comfortably with the best works of visionary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki.
Ponyo At Amazon
13 Crazy Heart
I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look. I never knew what a dump it was until you came in here.
Starring:Jeff Bridges,Maggie Gyllenhaal,Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell.
A simple, straightforward and familiar story is enhanced greatly by the performance of one of America's finest actors.
Bridges superb depiction of Country and Western singer, "Bad Blake" transcends the Sunday matinee TV Movie material of the week and helps propel this movie to a greater status.
Crazy Heart is a well crafted, authentically emotional and genuinely enthralling tale of alcohol abuse, loneliness and ultimately, redemption.
If you're a Country and Western fan, this film is a must as it nicely captures a slice of life in the American South-West and the excellent soundtrack conveys warmth rarely seen since the Seventies.
Crazy Heart is a small film with a big heart.
Crazy Heart At Amazon
12 The Scouting Book For Boys
A Sort of Love Story.
Starring:Holliday Grainger,Thomas Turgoose,Steven Mackintosh,Susan Lynch,Rafe Spall.
An idyllic and innocent summer movie with glorious cinematography, ice cream, youthful exuberance and beautiful sun kissed beaches turns into a dark and disturbing fable on the pains of adolescence.
The journey into the abyss though is an intense and emotionally draining experience hinging on dynamic performances from its two young leads. The Scouting Book for Boys is a superbly layered drama capturing the foreboding atmosphere pitch perfectly.
There are certainly numerous holes in the plot, a few too many supporting characters who literally make no sense (check out Steven Mackintosh's strange copper) and a couple of certain unrealistic situations, but the emotional impact shouldn't be underestimated and this films lingers in the consciousness for days afterwards.
The Scouting Book For Boys At Amazon
11 The House Of The Devil
Talk on the Phone. Finish Your Homework. Watch TV. Die.
Starring:Jocelin Donahue,Tom Noonan, Dee Wallace, Mary Woronov,AJ Bowen, Greta Gerwig.
Slow burning horror movie with it roots firmly in the early eighties has a serious advantage over many of its teen freindly competitors owing to the fact that it's actually scary.
The House of the Devil is a masterful throwback to an era of more nuanced storytelling which favours tension, dread and absolute pants wetting fear over excessive gore and a high body count. A meticulously developed movie with a retro look that is pitch perfect, THOTD is a spellbinding and genuinely frightening take on the babysitter in peril scenario which was highly prevalent in movies of the fledgling VHS era.
Performances from old stagers Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov send genuine shivers down the spine and the soundtrack, script and gloriously creepy payoff all help to make "The House of the Devil" the best Horror pic of the year.
The House Of The Devil At Amazon
10 The Road
I told the boy when you dream about bad things happening, it means you're still fighting and you're still alive. It's when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry.
Starring:Viggo Mortensen,Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall,Guy Pearce,Charlize Theron.
I'm a sucker for end of the world movies, hey who isn't. Ok, maybe it's not your cup of tea but this is a genre which lends itself to escalating tension on a scale second to none.
The Road is an enduringly grim version of the apocalypse which requires stoic willpower and a serious aversion to depression as its desperate story unfolds.
Hauntingly shot landscapes blend with a gritty hopelessness as a father and son attempt an impossible odyssey.
Bleak, starkly rendered and savagely sad, The Road is a searing and unflinching look at the end of humanity which remains in your consciousness for a number of days
The Road on Amazon
9 Exit Through The Gift Shop
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore.
It's highly debatable whether Exit through the Gift Shop is an exhilarating and engrossing movie about street art or as well may be the case, an elaborate hoax by subversive street artist, Banksy.
You shouldn't be detracted by the authenticity of this movie though as ETTGS is a riotous, provocative and immensely entertaining piece of film-making.
Asking the questions "What is Art?" and "can anybody do it?" Gift Shop playfully comments on the gullibility of the punters who pay megabucks to purchase their own little chunk of graffiti strewn pop art.
Motives unknown, real or not, this is still a triumphant and fascinating docu (mock) umentry. As Picasso said (or was it Banksy) "The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal."
Exit Through The Giftshop At Amazon
8 Four Lions
I'm taking my team up to the top floor now. I'll see you up there.
Director; Chris Morris.
Starring:Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia Davis, Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Alex MacQueen, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar.
Highly controversial, genuinely offensive and in serious poor taste, Four Lions is unquestionably a brave movie. Writer-Director Chris Morris is without a doubt smart enough to realise exactly what he is doing and treads a fine line between the acceptable and the taboo.
This movie blends satire, slapstick, poignancy and a jet black social statement and churns out the funniest movie of the year.
Imagine the darkest sit-com ever (all the characters are classic sit com), throw in a host of one-liners, bombastically broad comedy, absurd situations and a genuine heart in the middle and your pretty close to Four Lions.
To actually make Jihad Muslim suicide bombers, human and dare I say it likable, is a dangerous concept, but it is also a masterstroke and testament to Morris and his team of co-writers ingenious screenplay.
Four Lions is the out and out comedy of the year.
Four Lions At Amazon
7 The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
What has happened to you? How did you turn out this way? You know everything about me.
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring:Michael Nyqvist ,Noomi Rapace,Lena Endre,Peter Haber.
A literary sensation across the World, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in a trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson.
Following the book closely, the movie introduces us to hard bitten Journalist Mikael Blomkvist and troubled but brilliant computer hacker and researcher Lisbeth Salander. As the movie beautifully entwines and unfolds, this seemingly odd couples paths cross as they attempt to solve a 40 year old mystery which itself leads to serial murder, Nazism and other brutal horrors.
If you can imagine a cross between Agatha Christie and Hannibal Lecter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a compelling and stylish whodunit with a truly mesmerising performance by Noomi Rapace as the lead character, an engaging, eccentric and mentally unstable avenger who comfortably lays claim to being one of the 21st century most relevant heroines.
Almost an old fashioned murder mystery, TGWTDT is also Brutal, dark and hypnotically engaging, it also graphically exposes the underbelly of Swedish society.
As is the want, a Hollywood remake is on its way, catch this one while you can.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo at Amazon
6 The Social Network
If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.
Directed by David Fincher.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg,Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara,Andrew Garfield,Armie Hammer.
The geek shall inherit the Earth. The creation of Facebook and the subsequent lawsuits that followed are the focus of this engrossing and expertly crafted movie.
An epic drama for the internet age portraying the birth of an online phenomenon which at some point has touched all our lives. Impeccably acted by a young cast destined for the big time, The Social Network may play fast and loose with the absolute truth but its utterly gripping storyline defines an era of technologic advancement and the power and greed associated with it.
Ultimately this is a film about friendship, loneliness and the desperate need to be noticed. The Social Network succeeds greatly as a morality play for the 21st Century and ranks quite comfortably as one of the best films of 2010.
The Social Network at Amazon
The new words of the day are: "Sea", "Highway", "Road trip" and "Shotgun".
Starring:Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia.
The phrase "Not for all tastes" could have been invented for this ambiguous black comedy from Greece and I would genuinely be careful of who I recommend this movie to.
Weird with a capital W, Dogtooth is also terrifyingly unnerving, seriously disturbing, bizarrely deranged and perversely demented but (and it's a big but) it also happens to be one of the freshest and uniquely adventurous viewing experiences of the year. You could liken this movie to a serious road traffic accident where you know you shouldn't be rubber necking but you can't turn your head away. A truly remarkable depiction of family values, isolation and disfunctionality that knows no bounds, this is the most unpredictable film you will ever see.
Profoundly deep, savagely surreal and ultimately brilliant, Dogtooth is one of the best movies of the year.
Dogtooth at Amazon
4 Toy Story 3
Hold on, this is no time to be hysterical!
Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack,Ned Beatty,Don Rickles, Michael Keaton,John Ratzenberger.
How good is Pixar, not only have they made some of the greatest animated movies ever, they have also made a number of undisputed classics from a genre (children's films) hardly known for stone cold masterpieces.
Toy Story 3 is almost flawless, as close to perfection as any moviemaker would hope to achieve. It would be very churlish to accuse Pixar of regurgitating old materials, familiar storylines and playing on the popularity of the studios most enduring characters. Believe me this isn't the case. The inventiveness, ingenuity and a refusal to play safe has always been Pixar's trump card and Toy Story 3 has all this in bucket loads.
This is possibly the most emotional, poignant, heartbreakingly sad, astonishingly uplifting, spirited and incredibly fun movie you will ever see and if there are many better movies this year, then I will eat my hand-stitched poly-vinyl hat.
Toy Story 3 at Amazon
3 Kick- Ass
With no power, comes no responsibility. Except, *that* wasn't true.
Starring;Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Xander Berkeley, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Rispoli, Aaron Johnson, Lyndsy Fonseca.
With a complete disregard to political correctness, Kick-Ass could be construed as brutally offensive. with characters ranging from a psychotically sweet 11yr old girl (whose expletive laden dialogue would put Gordon Ramsey to shame) to a geeky teen who pretends to be gay to win the girl of his dreams.
This is a movie which is not a pastiche, a spoof or a satirical swipe at the world of superheroes, it's a movie which embraces the genre, chews it up and spits out a twisted and gloriously demented archetype of the Batman and Spiderman films.
Throw in stupendously good acting from the whole cast (Strong and Cage, the standouts) and a manically deranged soundtrack that borders on sheer brilliance and you have the ultimate comic book movie.
Kick-Ass on Amazon
2 Shutter Island
We gotta get off this rock, Chuck.
Starring:Leonardo DiCaprio,Mark Ruffalo,Ben Kingsley,Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley.
Some of the critics may have dismissed Shutter Island as second rate Scorsese but this gothic horror which evokes the spirit of old Hammer movies and hard boiled Film Noir is an absolute delight.
A well crafted, deceptively brilliant and gloriously shot B movie which in the hands of a master filmmaker becomes an atmospherically laden classic.
Scorsese has created a nightmarish world inhabited by shady characters, puzzling conundrums, despair and redemption. DiCaprio on top of his game flexes his muscles and turns in an unnerving and mesmerising performance as the grizzled US Marshall battling his inner demons.
Even taking into account a dÃ©nouement which is telegraphed, this is still an enthralling, intensely dark thriller which is an exercise in perfect Genre film making.
Creepy, thought provoking and ominously unforgettable, Scorsese may just have made one of the films of the year.
Shutter Island at Amazon
Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.
Starring:Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Ellen Page,Tom Hardy,Ken Watanabe.
I`ve had some serious stick over the fact that my Top 100 films of the Noughties did not include either Memento or The Dark Knight leading some conspiracy theorists to ascertain that I may actually have some crazy vendetta against director Christopher Nolan. I'm hoping that the inclusion of Inception as the movie of the year will dispel this theory.
Inception is sheer entertainment; it is challenging, dazzling and dares to be audaciously original shaming the current trend for remakes, re-imaginings and soulless sequels.
Visually stunning with some astonishing sequences never before seen on celluloid, Inception is an imaginative brain twister which requires multiple viewings. Ambitious, multi layered and brilliantly ambiguous, Nolan's masterpiece enters a fantastical world which may or may not be real. DiCaprio as always is hypnotically amazing adding another tortured soul to his highly impressive C.V. and is backed up by as good a supporting cast as you could wish for.
Inception has quite rightly laid down the marker and has already staked its claim for movie of the decade.