CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE BEST MOVIES OF 2010
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(The Scene: An old-style art deco movie palace. MICHAEL ARRUDA & LL SOARES are dressed in tuxedos. They are sipping champagne, with LL’s being a darker shade of red than Michael’s.)
MA: Happy New Year, everyone!
LS: Yes, Happy New Year!
MA: We’re ringing in the New Year with our picks for the Top 5 Best Movies of 2010, based on films we saw and reviewed for this site. I’m also sticking to horror/science fiction movies, while LL has decided to include non-genre films as well.
LS: Bully for you! I bet you think you’re special or something!
MA: Ahem. I’ll start.
My pick for my Number 5 movie of 2010 is SPLICE, the science fiction thriller starring Adrien Brody. This slick science fiction flick was surprisingly adult and featured a well written screenplay by director Vincenzo Natali and Antoinette Terry Bryant, as well as fine performances by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as the two scientists who create a new life form in their laboratory.
I wasn’t expecting much from this one and ended up liking it a lot. I enjoyed its story, and I also liked that it didn’t deteriorate into a melodramatic horror tale, but pretty much remained a solid science fiction movie throughout.
Well-made, well-written, and well-acted, SPLICE is well worth your time.
LS: I liked SPLICE a lot, too. I thought it was a really entertaining story, and well-acted. It even went a few places I didn’t think it would have the guts to, so that was a nice surprise. Adrien Brody actually turned a few solid performances in 2010, and is starting to become a real genre mainstay. I wonder if his career will continue to go in that direction, instead of the more arty films he made his reputation on, such as his Oscar-winning performance in Roman Polanski’s THE PIANIST (2002). And, aside from Brody and Polley, I also want to point out the terrific performance by Delphine Chaneac as Dren, the life form they create.
MA: I actually didn’t enjoy Dren as much as you did.
LS: For my Number 5 choice, it’s a tie, between my two favorite remakes of 2010. The first is THE WOLFMAN, starring Benicio Del Toro as the doomed and tragic Lawrence Talbot. This was the role made famous by Lon Chaney, Jr. in the 1940s, and there was a lot of apprehension going into this one. Chaney is one of the most underrated actors from the days of the original Universal monster films, but I always thought his performances as Talbot were among his best, and it was his signature role. Not only did the remake of THE WOLFMAN treat the original with the proper respect, it even strived to recapture the atmosphere and feel of the early Universal films, as well as the Hammer films of the 1950s. This movie wasn’t perfect – a subplot involving Talbot’s father, played by Anthony Hopkins, seemed a bit misguided – but overall this was really enjoyable film.
The other great remake of 2010 was THE CRAZIES. I was never a huge fan of George Romero’s original film from 1973 – I always thought it was a weaker variation on his zombie films – and I think director Breck Eisner actually improved on the original. The cast helped a lot, too, especially Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff Dave Dutten and Radha Mitchell as his wife Judy. This one had a lot of atmosphere and tension, and I liked it a lot.
MA: I liked both these movies, and they both made my Top 5, so I’ll have more to say on these in a bit. Your turn.
LS: What, me again?
MA: Would you like someone else to take your place?
LS: A wiseguy, eh?
Okay. My Number 4 pick for the best films of 2010 is KICK-ASS. This is a surprise since you and I didn’t review this one. John Harvey did!
From the trailer, I expected this to be a lame parody of superhero films, but the movie itself was much different. Basically the story of people without superpowers who decide to become heroes, it’s an interesting idea. Aaron Johnson is okay in the lead, but the real reason to see this movie is for the one-two punch of Nicolas Cage, doing his best Adam West impersonation as Big Daddy, and the amazing Chloe Moretz as his daughter, Hit-Girl. I thought their storyline was way more interesting than Kick-Ass’s. Hit-Girl is easily one of my favorite characters of the year. With her foul mouth and astounding martial arts skills, she easily dominates every single scene she is in. My only complaint about the movie is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as “Red Mist.” I loved the guy as McLovin’ in SUPERBAD (2007), but he seemed too jokey and out of place here, and it would have been a lot more interesting if his character had been played in a much darker way.
MA: I loved this movie too, and I didn’t include it on my list because I was focusing on horror movies. I thought Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl was by far the best part of this movie, and while I enjoyed Cage’s Adam West bit, I didn’t really enjoy his performance as much as Moretz’s.
Now it’s time for my Number 4 pick.
At Number 4, I’m going with THE WOLFMAN.
This is a strange pick for me, because there were a lot of parts to THE WOLFMAN that I didn’t like, but the parts I did like, I liked a lot, and these mostly have to do with the look of the Wolfman himself.
By far, the best part of THE WOLFMAN is its werewolf scenes, and this is because the werewolf looks really good. It’s an effective mix of CGI effects and wonderful make-up by make-up master Rick Baker. Not only does the werewolf look frightening, but it also captures the look of the original. There’s a lot of Lon Chaney Jr. in the face of Benicio Del Toro’s werewolf.
Not so good is the story. Screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker (who wrote SLEEPY HOLLOW ) and David Self (who wrote THIRTEEN DAYS ) wrote an average story that did very little to wow me. I didn’t like the new characterization of Larry Talbot, of his father, Sir John Talbot, nor did I enjoy the new character, Inspector Abberline.
Benicio Del Toro is fine as Lawrence Talbot, but what’s missing from his performance is what made Chaney stand out as Larry Talbot in the original, and that is, his tragic angst at being a werewolf. In this movie, Talbot’s life’s a mess even before he becomes a werewolf. So, it’s almost as if this latest tragedy is no big deal for him.
Director Joe Johnston does do good job at the helm. The movie looks almost beautiful. There are times the scenes in this film look like paintings. And the action/scare scenes work very, very well.
So, the story’s not so hot, but the technical aspects of the film and the look of the actual Wolf Man more than make up for it. On the strength of its visuals alone, THE WOLFMAN is my pick for the 4th best horror film of the year.
LS: Well, it was Number 5 for me, so I totally agree that it’s a good one.
MA: My Number 3 pick is a movie I didn’t review but saw anyway, and that would be THE LAST EXORCISM. This was a complete surprise for me, because I wasn’t expecting anything from it. It had a compelling story, smart direction by Daniel Stamm, it was scary, and it included a knockout performance by Patrick Fabian as Rev. Cotton Marcus.
I was on the edge of my seat a couple of times during this movie, and as far as exorcism movies go, other than the original THE EXORCIST (1973), there haven’t been many better than this one. It was far superior to the recent EXORCIST sequel and to THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (2005)
LS: I actually liked THE LAST EXORCISM a lot, too. It made my Top 10 list, but was Number 7, so you liked it a little more than I did. But I thought it was a big surprise – I went into it not expecting much and I was really impressed. It used the whole “fake documentary” style perfectly, and Patrick Fabian was terrific as Reverend Marcus.
My Number 3 pick for the best films of 2010 was THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE.
This was easily the most buzzed-about horror film of the year, and I thought it delivered the goods. It doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense if you think about it – a mad scientist grafting together the digestive tracks of three people to form one large new life form – why would anyone want to do this? Well, because Dr. Heiter (played by Dieter Laser) is INSANE! I thought this was one weird, original little movie and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
MA: You’re right on the money with your comment that this one makes no sense, and that was my biggest problem with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. I also didn’t enjoy the character of Dr. Heiter either. He’s a walking mad scientist cliché. But you’re right about all the buzz surrounding this one. Go figure!
LS: My Number 2 pick for the best movie of 2010 was Darren Aronofky’s BLACK SWAN. A powerful psychological thriller about sexual repression and madness, it delivers an Oscar-worthy performance by Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a ballerina on the edge. Mila Kunis also turns in a great performance as Lilly, a girl who appears to represent Nina’s dark side. Aronofsky is one of the best directors making movies today and BLACK SWAN is just further proof of this.
MA: My Number 2 pick is PREDATORS. I loved PREDATORS.
This is another one that really surprised me, because again I had zero expectations for this movie. I really wasn’t into watching yet another PREDATOR movie. But this movie erased these doubts immediately, starting with the very first scene.
Writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch wrote a story that hooked me from the get-go.
I think the main reason for its success was that PREDATORS tells a brand new story.
It’s not a remake or a “re-imagining” of the 1987 original movie PREDATOR, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a brand new chapter in the franchise. It’s refreshingly entertaining throughout.
Another reason I was skeptical about PREDATORS was Adrien Brody. I didn’t really have much faith in him as the lead in an action-horror movie. He’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I expected him to be sorely miscast. Boy, was I wrong. Not only does Brody actually carry this movie, he delivers one of the best performances in a genre film this year. He comes off as utterly convincing in the role of a tough, mercenary killer. Who woulda thought?
While the special effects were just OK, the action sequences are topnotch, thanks to director Nimrod Antal, who does a good job here. There are plenty of exciting action sequences and intense hunt scenes in this one, and it’s gory when it needs to be.
PREDATORS is easily one of the most entertaining horror movies of the year, and for me, it’s the runner up to the best horror film of the year.
LS: This was a great year for Adrien Brody. He breathed some new life into genre cinema, first with SPLICE and then PREDATORS, which is even better. I thought the Predators franchise was on its last legs, but this movie was smart, well-written, and well acted by all involved, but especially Brody. It was Number 9 on my Top 10 list, and I agree it was one of the best films of 2010.
MA: Now it’s time for our picks for the Number 1 movie of the year. The envelope, please. My pick for the Best Horror Movie of 2010 goes to: THE CRAZIES.
THE CRAZIES is a nonstop rollercoaster ride of a movie that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. From the opening sequence at a baseball game, in a scene that is sweating with realism, the movie grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. For a movie like this, or any horror movie for that matter, the audience has to believe for it to work. From the get-go, THE CRAZIES will have you believing in every farfetched thing that happens, and it’ll do it with great acting, directing, and writing.
Director Breck Eisner crafts one compelling scene after another. The scene in the farmhouse where one of the townspeople, now a crazy, torments his family is wonderfully done and terribly frightening. The scene where Judy and Becca are strapped to tables, and they are menaced by the man with the pitchfork is incredibly suspenseful, and then there’s the even better scene in the car wash.
The screenplay was written by Scott Kosar, who also wrote the screenplay for THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003), and Ray Wright. It’s filled with one memorable scene after another, along with realistic dialogue and fleshed out characters who you really care for.
LS: Pretty amazing that the guy who wrote that lame TEXAS CHAINSAW remake wrote a script as good as THE CRAZIES. I’m impressed.
MA: The acting is also excellent. Both Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff David Dutton and Radha Mitchell as Dr. Judy Dutton stand out as the leads in this movie, and Joe Anderson is even better in the supporting role as Deputy Russell Clark
THE CRAZIES is a relentless horror movie, one that goes for the throat early on and doesn’t let go.
Hands down, THE CRAZIES is the best horror movie of 2010.
LS: Well, since it made my Top 5, I totally agree that THE CRAZIES was an enjoyable flick.
Unlike you, I refuse to just stick to just horror movies – only because we reviewed a wide range of films in 2010. Sure, horror is still our main focus, but we also reviewed superhero films, westerns, and films a little harder to define. If we reviewed it here, then it’s fair game for our “Best Of” lists.
As for my Number 1 film of 2010, it was a movie I saw in the fall of 2010, but didn’t write a review for until this week. Gaspar Noe’s ENTER THE VOID. This is a movie about what happens after death, and it’s a trippy, surreal journey of the soul. It also defies categorization.
I thought it was visually astounding and emotionally powerful. And it’s like nothing else that came out in 2010. Since it was in very limited release, I doubt you had a chance to see this one, Michael. But then again, there’s a good chance it would not be your cup of tea, anyway.
MA: No, I didn’t get to see this one. But it sounds better than THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE!
Okay, that wraps things up from here. Happy New Year everybody!
(Confetti falls from the ceiling)
LS: And don’t forget to look for our WORST OF 2010 movies column, coming real soon!
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares