Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us

2010 Midterm Report

Well, 2010 is now half over, so it’s a good time to take a look back at the best the year had had to offer so far.  It hasn’t been a very impressive year on the whole, but there have been a group of fine films released over the last six months, and I’ve picked the 10 best.  With Inception looming this month and a promising Fall season on the way, maybe this is just a foundation leading to a great 2010 close.

10.  Daybreakers

This surprising vampire noir managed to feel a little fresh in a massively overwrought genre.  It created a fascinated world run by a vampire ruling class and managed to effectively explore issues like the pillage of natural resources and race war.  A clever sci-fi tilt to the vampire canon.

9.  Iron Man 2

While not benefiting from expectations and the out-of-the-blue surprise that helped the first film, this noisier sequel still managed to deliver quality action set pieces and the flair of Robert Downey Jr. that keeps the series feeling alive.  Probably out of steam artistically as a franchise, but this entry was worth the return.

8.  Get Him To The Greek

Russel Brand gave the audience exactly what they wanted by giving us lots of androgynous rock star Aldous Snow, and Jonah Hill does a more than respectable job as his would-be foil.  Relentlessly funny, with a great comedic turn from Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs.

7.  Splice

A fearless and fascinating sci-f horror fable that never crosses over into exploitation.  Adrian Brody brings a necessary gravitas and intelligence that grounds the film even as events get more and more spectacular, and you’ll rarely see films so unafraid to go where their setups and themes say they should.

6.  The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski can still direct the hell out of a thriller.  He brings the methodical attention to detail and the quietly unsettling style that made Chinatown so great, and while this latest offering may not be on that level, it’s the work of an established master who knows how to use subtlety and grace to get under your skin.

5.  Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The much-anticipated film adaptation of a world-famous Swedish literary trilogy, this twisty and surprising serial killer noir doesn’t all of its intended notes, but it’s a wickedly dark and extremely well-acted antidote to the bland modern serial killer procedural.  After Let The Right One In, it seems the land of Bergmann may be on the verge of a second Golden Age.

4.  Shutter Island

Martin Scorcese pulls out a dizzying array of filmmaking magic tricks to craft this magnificent psychological horror tale.  The pulp constraints of the material prevent the film from joining the ranks of Scorcese’s greatest films, but the director has a ball with the genre, and DiCaprio provides further evidence that he is one of the greatest living actors.

3.  How To Train Your Dragon

Dreamworks Animation needed to shot in the arm now that the Shrek franchise is ended, and they scored a big one with this visually beautiful and expertly written dragon fable.  The story is both an old one and a refreshingly topical one, as bitter enemies learn that more connects them than separates them.  Pixar isn’t the only house telling great stories with computers.

2.  Kick-Ass

Comic Book cinema played to the very top of the hilt.  It paradoxically embraces its hyperviolent content while viciously rubbing its audience’s nose in it, which creates an uncomfortable yet somehow exhilarating rush of a film that doesn’t once lose its momentum.  Rising star Aaron Johnson provides the heart and soul, but Chloe Morentz steals the show as the pint-sized murderess Hit Girl.

1.  Toy Story 3

There is no better team in cinema than Pixar, the greatest collection of storytellers currently on Earth.  They manage to take the usually doomed “second sequel” and use it to expand and reinforce the themes as the previous films, creating a wondrous and occasionally dark fable for all ages that belongs up there with the best the company has to offer.  The journey of Woody and Buzz may be over as far as the movies go, but our hearts are warmed knowing that their personal adventures are simply beginning anew.  It’s rare that you see such life-affirming art that isn’t spoon-fed.  Pure magic as only Pixar can deliver, and thus far the best film of 2010.

Further Midterm Notables



WORST FILM THUS FAR:  Sex and the City 2

BEST DIRECTOR:  Martin Scorcese, Shutter Island

BEST ACTOR:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island

BEST ACTRESS:  Naomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Note: I have not yet seen Winter’s Bone, which is topping many such midyear lists, but I plan on doing so as soon as it’s released where I live!


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