Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our 2010 Movie Favorites

When initially thinking back, 2010 seemed like a pretty horrible year for movies. Between more TWILIGHT, a SEX & THE CITY sequel, the generic (PRINCE OF PERSIA), the boring (CLASH OF THE TITANS), and bad 3D post converted movies (ALICE IN WONDERLAND), the year was off to a bad place in history. That is until you look between the cracks.

This year we were lucky enough to help an all-around awesome fella Devin with the Dallas International Film Festival and got the chance to see a lot of great movies we wouldn't have a chance to anywhere else. Coupled with Netflix, and the constant screenings we went to, this was probably the most movie filled year we've had. When thinking back, it was an exciting time; we saw a seemingly mind-boggling movie become a big summer hit and some great original horror movies (which is usually such a boring genre for me). While some of each of our favorites won't be released here or were box office flops, we still present to you each of our favorites (not necessarily the best) movies of this year.

Javi's Favorites:

FROZEN- Prior to this year, I'd never heard of Adam Green as a director. I'm not too well into the horror community because frankly, horror movies bore me for the most part. If you've seen a lot, you can tell who will die, who the killer is, and the ridiculous obligatory "plot twist" at the end. However, what Mr. Green did was create a realistic and downright frightening intimate piece of horror. I remember this being the first of the horror movies that left me with a tired and intense feeling after walking out of the theater. It's haunting in its everyday feeling which made me really nervous to go skiing now. Not to mention it being beautifully shot, this was one of the true great horror movies this year. You can see our review here.

TRUE GRIT- The Coen Brothers never make a simple movie. Even their bro favorite THE BIG LEBOWSKI has more depth and meaning than it initially let on. The same holds true to their just-released Western which was based more off the book and less off the Oscar-winning John Wayne adaptation. Jeff Bridges has become a cooler Daniel Day Lewis-type actor coming out with a good Award winning performances each year but still acts in blockbusters like IRON MAN and TRON: LEGACY.  Make no mistake that while this movie has some of the coolest action pieces the Coens have done this is a big character driven story. The interactions between the Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld are the meat and potatoes of this movie; and ultimately, the subtleties of a second and third viewing which make this gem of a movie come alive. You can see our review here.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK- "The Movie We All Laughed and Judged Too Soon" is one of the ways we can remember this movie while we admire the great dialogue and the compelling story dealing with ambition, friendship, betrayal, as well as how the Internet has changed business culture.  Jesse Eisenberg and James Garfield were impressive in their roles as the founders of Facebook, and director David Fincher tones down his normal style to serve the story in a very restrained yet successful way.  

ODDSAC- Animal collective is a band that is notorious in the indie music world as having been blamed for bringing both a renaissance and simultaneously bringing about its downfall.  When they announced that they would be releasing a movie, or as they put it, a visual album, I was excited as could be.  Bands nowadays don't have the ambition anymore to create something beyond a live DVD, but this was to be exclusive audio that you could only get in this release.  I went to the free screening of it at Good Records in Dallas, and I was completely blown away by what I saw, if not also completely confused as to the "plot" of the album/movie.  Suffice to say, it was one of the most complete mixes of sound visuals, and much like all of these movies I've listed is a completely immersing experience.

INCEPTION- In what some considered director Christopher Nolan's weakest effort, INCEPTION managed to captivate audiences in a summer that needed a shot on the arm. The super cynics will dismiss it, but just like many of my favorite movies this year, its impact is not diminished by repeated viewings but greatly enhanced by it. In what will be a greatly analyzed film, INCEPTION is a fun and interesting take on the caper film that is horribly entertaining even if its exposition gets ridiculous at times. Obvious standouts are my man crush Joseph Gordon Levitt as Arthur and Tom Hardy as the scene-stealing Eames. This is one of the movies everyone I know has seen which gives me hope for future challenging movies. You can see our review here.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON- It would be true fortune that this movie was released the same year we got a puppy at the house.  The strange relationship and understanding one can have with any sort of animal is amazing, and this movie portrays that in the best way.  One of the few movies that I saw multiple times in the theater in 3D, and it is truly the best 3D movie ever released. Try to compare the flying scenes from this movie to AVATAR, one can really see which is the clear winner.  The story is familiar territory, but at the same time, the great writing help elevate it to something else. 

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP- As a fan of arts in general, I'm always willing and excited to learn about a new world. Around the time I was reading the Juxtapoz art magazine, out comes an announcement that Banksy was going to get a movie. Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised at the funny, captivating, and all around entertaining movie that we got. Chronicling the unfortunate rise of Thierry Guetta, AKA Mr. Brainwash, as the "pop punk" of graffiti art who mimics the street art style but never the spirit. In his complete lack of understanding and respect for what he admires, he still makes for a compelling character study. It's a must watch for any art fan. You can see our review here.

THE LOVED ONES-This criminally unreleased Australian horror movie made me cringe and want to look away.  It is a testament to horror genre with a premise that is scary in its plausibility; this was a pleasant and shocking surprise when I saw it at the Dallas International Film Festival. There are rumors of this movie being released next year stateside.  When it does, be sure to be there. 

TOY STORY 3- Finally, we have a trilogy of movies that feels like it has a purpose.  Disney/Pixar could have ended with TOY STORY 2 and would have been okay, but this sequel brings an emotional and logistic close to this beloved series that a lot of us grew up with. 

BLACK SWAN- Aronofsky is a really gifted director.  All of his movies demonstrate this, and BLACK SWAN feels like the culmination of that skill. In what is one of the most beautifully shot movies of the year, he takes a subject full of ridiculous stereotypes and makes it compelling and scary.  The nature of performance art and perfection are put at the forefront of this story, and we witness how much can one person push their moral, mental, and physical boundaries. You can see our review here

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD- If you follow me on Twitter or are my friend on Facebook, you’ve seen how many times I've seen/talked/gushed about this movie. I saw it five times in theaters, and I'm pretty sure a good 10 times since I got the Blu-Ray. Everything from the visuals, to the music, to the story was true to the comic Bryan Lee O'Malley told throughout the many books. It's a hilarious ADD metaphor for the troubles all of us go through when we meet someone that captivates us and the baggage we deal with when we do. It's a love letter to all of us that were born in the mid to late 80's. Here's my review!

Honorable Mentions: Shutter Island, The Last Exorcism, Kick-Ass

Jonesy's Favorites

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON- Like most movie goers, if an animated feature isn’t Disney and/or Pixar, I tend not to set my expectations too high. Even when I heard how great HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON was, I still didn’t go in with a Pixar-level expectations. However, I was completely taken by surprise. I fell in love with this movie. I saw DRAGON four times in theatres, including twice in IMAX 3D. I loved how much heart this movie had, and how much of the quirky relationship between Hiccup and Toothless I was invested in. I was jealous leaving the theatre that I would never be able to own my own dragon! This is also showed how 3D needs to be used movies. The effects made the flying sequences spectacular, and I found myself actually being scared (I have a little fear of heights). I can sit here and talk about this movie for hours, and I recommended it to everyone I knew the moment I saw it. It’s a near perfect film. My favorite of the year.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD- Sometimes a movie comes along that is a feast for your eyes. Last year, for me, it was Avatar. This year it was Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim is, at its core, a story about love set to a background of a video game with a pop-art motif. It’s fun, funny, romantic, and sort of insane. People fight and burst into coins when they’re defeated…let me repeat, burst into coins! How fun is that?! This movie demands multiple viewings to catch all the idiosyncrasies, references, and jokes. It’s a complete cultural love letter to my generation. See full review here.

FROZEN- A small independent movie that took what Jaws did for the ocean and made ski chair lifts flipping frightening. Three friends end up stuck on a ski lift when the resort shuts down for the weekend. With no connection to anyone but each other, they have to fight against the elements to survive. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole movie. I completely bought into everything filmmaker Adam Green threw at us. Proves you don’t need a lot of special effects to make an amazing thriller. See the full review here.

THE KING'S SPEECH- The most recent movie to make my list. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush play King George VI and his speech therapist, respectively, during a tumultuous time in England on the brink of the second world war. Firth is effortless and brilliant as King George, who has to overcome a speech impediment and lead a country. The chemistry between Rush and Firth is nothing short of first class. The movie is funny, poignant, and heart warming.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK- Being in college when Facebook became the staple social networking tool, I was mildly curious when I heard this movie was being made. The main aspect I wondered was how could this story be THAT interesting? Aaron Sorkin’s snappy and smart script brings what could have been a lot of boring technical jargon to life. What I loved the most was how the story portrayed the evolving world of business and ambition.  A fantastic look at the website that seems to control most of our lives.

BLACK SWAN- I’m a dance nerd. So, I was a little biased going into Black Swan. However, Darren Arnofsky’s dark, twisted tale of a ballerina losing her grip on reality had me spellbound. This gorgeous thriller is a technical masterpiece, and a very interesting perspective of determination and obsession of one‘s art. Natalie Portman’s performance was nothing short of fabulous. Towards the climatic ending, I found myself forgetting to breath. I left the theatre shaking from the experience. This film isn’t for everyone, but it’s the best original movie this year. See full review here.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK- Probably my most ridiculous movie on the list, but GREEK is an absolute riot. I loved this movie. This was this year’s HANGOVER for me. I’ve never really been a Russel Brand fan, but I found myself actually caring about his character. He’s a washed up musician who has failed at all his relationships, and he finally finds solace in Jonah Hill’s character as they try to make their way to the Greek in California. Each situation they find themselves in tops the previous, and I’m not sure if their livers will ever be the same by the end of the trip. This was an absolute riot and had me in stitches. See my review here.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART ONE- I’ve always wanted as much detail in the Harry Potter movies as possible because I love and adore the books. Though, I know that sacrifices in details must be made because a five hour movie would be crazy. Part one gave me and many obsessed fans what we wanted. The movie is the closest adaptation of the series. The film is beautifully shot with some amazing character moments between the trio. It’s a wonder to see the trio grow up on screen; we feel that they’ve become a part of our world too. I cannot wait until part two next summer! See our review here.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP- The only documentary to make my list; GIFT SHOP is a look at the world of street art and the elusive artist, Banksy. Now the film is marketed as a “Banksy” film, but we never know if the film itself is just a documentary about street art and "artist" Thierry Guetta, or the movie is an “art piece” by Banksy to show how street art has become just a bragging right for art collectors who value materialism.  Regardless of the intention behind the movie, GIFT SHOP is a rare and fantastic glimpse of this underground world.  See my review here.

TOY STORY 3- Trilogies can be scary because the magic of the series is usually gone by the third film. However, Pixar was able to show how to keep a series heart and soul throughout. Seeing TOY STORY 3 is like meeting old friends you haven’t talked to in a while, yet it seems that no time has passed. Most of us grew up with these characters, and I feel justified in saying we all received the closure we needed by the end.
Honorable Mentions: Inception, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, The Loved Ones, True Grit, Kick-Ass, The Last Exorcism
We've had such a great year finding our way through the movie world.  We can safely say our love and appreciation of movies has grown exponentially since we started a little over a year ago.  We have some great ideas coming up for 2011, and we cannot wait to share!

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