Movies of 2010

I guess this shall be my mid-January tradition, to make a blog post with short reviews on the movies of the previous year. (For one year before, see the post Movies of 2009.)

2010 had some nice films, some of which I still haven’t seen. Once again, I’ll go in order of release date.

*At some points I quote my other posts. Just fyi.

Youth in Revolt (Jan 2010)

Youth in Revolt

Rating: 7/10

This is one weird but witty movie. Nick (played by Michael Cera, perfect for this role) and his alter ego (also Cera) are both hilarious, either in being awkward, as in the first case, or in being a super rebel, as in the second. A few parts of this movie are done very well—there are some very witty and nicely placed remarks—but most of the film is nothing special. Still QUITE funny though!

Leap Year (Jan 2010)

Rating: 3/10

It was pretty funny at times, but seems overly dramatic and full of clichés.

The Book of Eli (Jan 2010) (New)

Rating: 3/10

It lasted too long for what it delivered; the only parts with any meaning were at the very end, when a couple of key facts are revealed. Otherwise, it was very uninteresting: the plot moved slowly, the fight scenes were dull, and the characters undeveloped.

The Spy Next Door (Jan 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Throughly funny and entertaining, but utterly lacking in any depth. It seemed the whole purpose of the movie was to star Jackie Chan.

Edge of Darkness (Jan 2010)

Rating: 2/10

Mel Gibson’s acting doesn’t make up for the virtual lack of anything else in this “movie.”

Shutter Island (Feb 2010)

Rating: 7/10

This is a deep, mind-boggling thriller with a strong cast and artistic direction; however, it wasn’t the most thrilling and it moved at an unsteady pace.

Alice in Wonderland (Mar 2010)

Alice in Wonderland

Rating: 7/10

As I have said here before: “It is difficult to create a bad movie from Lewis Carroll’s ingenious vision of Wonderland, and likewise, it is exceedingly difficult to imitate or surpass it…. Tim Burton’s version takes place in a different time, and is hence necessarily different, but loses much of the fine wit and ridiculousness of the original work.” Otherwise pretty good. Just nothing outstanding about it, which was the whole point.

The Bounty Hunter (Mar 2010)

Rating: 2/10

Yeah, I don’t recommend anybody to watch this. I should really be giving this a 1, but because you get to hear Jennifer Aniston occasionally saying funny things, I’ll bump it up to a 2. (Though if you wanted that, you could just watch Friends, which is much better.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Mar 2010)

Rating: 2/10

The problem is that at the end I could identify with none of the characters; even the protagonist was very unlikeable. And it’s plot seems without a lot of thought.

Hot Tub Time Machine (Mar 2010)

Rating: 6/10

An unusually creative use of time traveling. It has its funny moments, but feels lacking overall.

How to Train Your Dragon (Mar 2010)

Rating: 7/10

This animated film had a very convincing plot, excellent plot twist, and a good mix of Viking customs with dragon lore and fantasy. I was delighted by the film’s humor as well, especially in the protagonist’s name—Hiccup—and in the blacksmith’s tone that is jolly no matter the situation. The only part sub-par was the music, which I really wasn’t paying attention to.

Clash of the Titans (Apr 2010)

Clash of the Titans

Rating: 5/10

“I have not seen the 1981 rendition, but I will say the 2010 Clash of the Titans (the 2D version) was fairly nice. A fascination with Greek mythology also helps, as in my case, and it is fun to see the fight of gods from a modern lens.” Sam Worthington’s acting is pretty awesome, and the special effects that include the gods are dazzling.

Kick-Ass (Apr 2010)

Rating: 9/10

Although the story is somewhat silly, one actress single-handedly more than compensates for it: Chloë Moretz. Her brilliant (and extremely violent) performance as Hit-Girl makes this possibly the most entertaining movie of 2010.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Apr 2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Rating: 2/10

This is a boring horror movie, which is almost a contradiction in terms. The plot is extremely simple: a bunch of teenagers get killed by Freddy. There is very little meaningful character development, and each death is predictable and unsatisfying. Many non-horror movies, such as The Terminator, are scarier than this.

Iron Man 2 (May 2010)

Rating: 5/10

TOO MANY EXPLOSIONS!!! Seriously though. Every minute, approximately two things blow up—I didn’t actually count, but that’s what it felt like—and it wasn’t too pleasant at all. Later on, about two things blow up every second. The plot too was very fictitious and not developed the most clearly. Then again, I haven’t watched the first Iron Man, but even so, it should be watchable stand-alone, which it wasn’t quite. The acting is quite brilliant though. Props especially to Robert Downey Jr.

Splice (Jun 2010)

Splice

Rating: 9/10

A fresh, original sci-fi movie, and that alone gives it at least an 8. The philosophical questions it raises are quite profound, and that for me bumps it up to a 9. The plot is basically that two genetic researchers illegally splice human DNA into a mix of other animals’ DNA, and the result is a creature named Dren (‘nerd’ backwards). Splice is a very believable movie—it could easily happen five or ten years from now, and it’s very scientifically accurate. [read more]

The Karate Kid (Jun 2010)

The Karate Kid

Rating: 7/10

Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are amazing actors. The fight scenes are excellent; however, there is not enough of it—the beginning and the middle of the movie are rather slow. This is more than compensated in the last 15 minutes, a scene that is one of the best in film history.

Toy Story 3 (Jun 2010)

Toy Story 3

Rating: 9/10

Though this one in my opinion not as good as the first, it’s still a heck of a good movie. There were a lot of nostalgic moments from the earlier ones, and the timing of the release itself was perfect: the summer before the class of ’14 would go to college. (Yep, class of ’14 ftw!)

Predators (Jul 2010)

Rating: 3/10

Fairly weak and uninteresting; it does not compare at all to the original Predator (1987), which I think is great. A Predator film without Arnold is like a Terminator film without Arnold—oh wait…

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jul 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Terribly, terribly cheesy, but not too bad. The acting was done well, and I loved how physics played ironically a large part in the plans of both the good guys and the bad guys.

Inception (Jul 2010)

Inception

Rating: 9/10

A film of intellectual brilliance. With stunning scenes as well, this is a solid film. Reminds me of The Matrix (1999).

Salt (Jul 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Salt has a remarkable plot and equally remarkable acting especially from Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt. The other characters however seem stereotypical and uninteresting.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Aug 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Despite the extremely predictable role of Michael Cera’s character (not that he’s a bad actor, but he’s pretty much the same person in every single movie), everything else about the film was entertaining, creative, witty, or a combination of the three.

Machete (Sep 2010)

Rating: 9/10

A surprisingly good movie that exceeded my expectations significantly. The acting and action are perfect, and though the story may be cheesy, it does manage to provide a good amount of social commentary as well. The gritty scenes follow perfectly the crime-filled plot. And for an action movie, it does have a sizable share of scenes that scream awesome.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sep 2010)

Rating: 3/10

Definitely not the worst, but perhaps the most disappointing movie of 2010. Having seen the first three Resident Evil’s (2002, 2004, 2007), I was expecting something interesting, but the creativity seems to have run out by the first movie. Also, I felt that this film would be very hard to grasp for someone who has not seen the other films in the series. The plot DOES make sense in context. But by itself, this film is quite random.

Easy A (Sep 2010)

Rating: 9/10

Let me get this clear: I’m usually not into teen comedies. But there is so much wit in this movie that it’s hard to not like. It’s also really satisfying to hear Emma Stone make clever retorts at everything. Overall, it is a much more sophisticated film than most of its type.

The Town (Sep 2010)

Rating: 8/10

An interesting crime movie, and a very good one too. The resolution was fairly weak, but this was made up for by the film’s overall intensity.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Sep 2010)

Rating: 7/10

Pretty engaging for a movie about owls. Even with an incredibly cliché plot, it manages to be convincing and provide beautiful scenes.

Let Me In (Oct 2010)

Rating: 7/10

I found this impressive but at the same time unimpressive—it matched up almost scene to scene with the Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008) on which it was based. (I gave the original a 10/10, by the way.) The American version is basically different actors, same movie. Then again, it’s still a strong film on its own.

The Social Network (Oct 2010)

Rating: 8/10

I think this was overhyped a bit; I didn’t think it was THAT good; then again, it wasn’t bad. And I’m actually quite a fan of Zuckerberg and Facebook, but after this movie, I was more unsure of Facebook’s origins than I was before.

Due Date (Nov 2010)

Rating: 5/10

Funny most of the time, but Robert Downey Jr.’s role definitely could have been funnier than it was. Also, some of the funny parts were more awkward-funny than comedic-funny. For a good laugh, I’d watch Iron Man 2 again over this, and that says something.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Nov 2010)

Rating: 6/10

Yet another Harry Potter movie. Some scenes were cool, but many seemed forced and less emotional than before.

The King’s Speech (Nov 2010)

Rating: 8/10

A splendid performance! It’s funny, serious, dramatic, and passionate.

The Warrior’s Way (Dec 2010)

Rating: 3/10

What was the point of this? I have no idea. The only part interesting to see the juxtaposition of an Asian warrior culture with the small-town culture of the American West.

Black Swan (Dec 2010)

Rating: 8/10

A very cohesive movie, more artful than any other in this list. There isn’t much action, but it manages to move at a brisk pace.

The Tourist (Dec 2010)

Rating: 8/10

Another excellent film, its only weakness is that it pins all of its excitement on one single plot twist, which isn’t too hard to figure out. It was genuinely entertaining the first time around, but I’m not sure I could enjoy it a second time, knowing what happens from the very start.

Tron: Legacy (Dec 2010)

Rating: 6/10

Some of the best visual effects I have ever seen, especially in 3-D. The storyline is a bit lacking though, and the dialog is nothing but cliché.

True Grit (Dec 2010)

Rating: 10/10

Truly one of the best movies of the year.

Trópico de Sangre [Tropic of Blood] (2010)

Rating: 7/10

A tale about oppression in the Dominican Republic under the rule of Rafael Trujillo, one of the most ruthless rulers in the Americas. If you watch this, I would strongly recommend that you watch this in the original Spanish version, even if you don’t know Spanish. I watched this in the English-dubbed version, and the voices were laughable. I initially gave this a 5, but then I saw a trailer of this in Spanish, and it was so much more convincing. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for a 7.

My Favorite 2010 Film:

  • True Grit or Inception (woohoo!)

Movies of 2011 that I really want to watch (definitely incomplete list):

  • Sucker Punch (see the trailer if you haven’t already!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (big fan of the Pirates series)

For films outside of 2010, see Movies.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Today’s topic of finding happiness was chosen by Melissa W at University of Michigan.

I have actually not been feeling well the last few days; I’ve gone from a total night owl to… well, I slept at 8 pm yesterday and woke up at 1 am, blogging right now on the early morning of the 25th.

At first I planned to talk about happiness in general, but something very interesting caught my eye. Looking at my Facebook news feed, I saw not one, but three completely different peoples’ statuses in the last three hours about the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which they had all seen for the first time this Christmas.

That is a truly great movie. It’s one of the two movies that have brought me to tears, the other being Schindler’s List. But for opposite reasons: one movie I cried out of joy; the other, it was truly depressing. If you know that Schindler’s List has to do with the Holocaust, you should know which is which.

It’s a Wonderful Life

So what is It’s a Wonderful Life about? It’s the story of a hard-working but extremely generous man called George Bailey and his struggle against miserly banker Mr. Potter (might sound like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but it’s far different). On Christmas Eve, a series of ill-fated events drive Bailey to an unpayable $8000 debt, and he goes to a bridge, about to take his life. His guardian angel, Clarence, comes down to save him.

Potter told Bailey that, because of Bailey’s life insurance, he is worth more dead than alive. Bailey tells Clarence his life is worthless, so Clarence does the unimaginable: he magically changes history to exist as if Bailey was never born. Bailey wanders through the town, initially in disbelief. Finally realizing the impact of his life by seeing what would have happened in his absence, Bailey begs the angel to let him return. Following is one of the most emotionally touching scenes in movie history.

A week ago I made a made a post called 7 (+1) Awesome Movie Scenes with the Most Fitting Music. Here’s one more to the list:

“Auld Lane Syne” – Ending Scene of It’s a Wonderful Life

If you haven’t seen this movie already, you must! As George Bailey said, Merry Christmas!

7 (+1) Awesome Movie Scenes with the Most Fitting Music

Edit: Apparently YouTube has disabled the embedding of some of these videos. For those, #4 and #6, I’ll give the links instead.

What we hear can make just as much an impact as what we see. Since movies gained sound, the audio elements of a scene can turn it from a great one into a memorable one. Here I have compiled 7 (+1) of the scenes I find to have the most compelling pieces or songs. Each time, music has helped to immortalize an amazing moment.

7. “Thé à la menthe” – Laser Scene in Ocean’s Twelve

The only scene from a heist movie on this list, it is enjoyable to watch.

6. “Lux Aeterna” – Ending Scene of Requiem for a Dream

An excellent film about spiraling drug addiction. This visually and musically artistic scene ties everything up about the consequences of drugs. Most of you have probably heard this somewhere before; I had known this piece for years before learning its dark context.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuzNohk5cYw [the piece is audible starting 0:55]

5. Schindler’s List Theme – “I Could Have Got More” Scene in Schindler’s List

The music here, even if only part of the background, echoes what is played earlier at sad, often horrific moments of the movie. In this scene, Schindler laments that he could have saved even more human lives from the fate of the Holocaust than the 1100 he had already saved.

4. “The Times They Are A Changin'” – Opening Credits in Watchmen

While the visual portrays numerous historical references, Bob Dylan’s song echoes the spirit of the generation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-T5Yv2Xb4E

4b. “The Sound of Silence” – Funeral Scene in Watchmen

Here’s where the (+1) comes from. This scene from the same movie is matched by Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXNc53rIFe8

3. “The Circle of Life” – Opening Scene of The Lion King

The visual and musical elements of this scene go together beyond perfectly. I doubt that anyone in my audience does not recognize this.

2. “The Blue Danube” – Docking Scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey

For context: The movie has just jumped ahead 4 million years from its opening act, and not a single word has been spoken thus far (nor has there appeared a single human being). This scene was the one that popularized Strauss’s piece “The Blue Danube.” This was imagined in 1968 but is still wonderful to watch.

1. “My Heart Will Go On” – “I’m Flying” Scene in Titanic

No words can describe the power of music in this scene.

This is the first time I have ever embedded this many videos into a single post. Enjoy!

Edit: Reader submissions below!

“Married Life” – Married Life Scene from Up

One of the most heart-touching scenes out there.

“Claire de Lune” – Ending Scene of Ocean’s Eleven

This scene would make much more sense in context, which is that the group of men have just spent the movie pulling off an epic robbery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLDFOzB2iHc

Catching up on Movies

I realized that I haven’t made a movie post since the beginning of August! Here’s a list of the movies I’ve seen since starting college (the list is in no particular order):

1. The Hangover (2009)

Hangover

Rating: 8/10

It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. It managed to catch me completely off guard with some Vegas references even though I’ve been to Vegas three times.

2. EuroTrip (2004)

Rating: 7/10

A pretty hilarious comedy. Doesn’t quite match The Hangover in coherency, but it does pack a fair number of unexpected punches.

3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Rating: 8/10

A very, very good heist movie. A must see.

4. Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Rating: 7/10

Smart in its own way, but much of the plot is reduced in importance by a revelation at the end, so much that it almost feels like a waste of time. But it’s still very impressive, and that commonly criticized portion is only a minor flaw. The amazing laser dance scene makes up for this.

5. Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

Rating: 8/10

Matches the ingenuity of the first, very good overall.

6. Ninja Cheerleaders (2008)

Rating: 2/10

We watched this movie on a band trip (on Bus “Happy”). It was super-cheesy and contained some very unconvincing scenes. The bus laughed at it.

7. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Rating: 5/10

An extremely amusing movie. We watched this on the bus as well. It has the feel of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but seemingly not done as well.

8. Mary Poppins (1964)

Rating: 9/10

A classic, and a very nice musical. Watched this on Bus “Happy.”

9. Up (2009)

Rating: 8/10

Not my favorite Pixar movie, but still cool.  We watched this on the way back from a band trip. Ironically, I also watched this on a bus back from a band trip in high school.

10. Anchorman (2004)

Rating: 7/10

Funny. Also watched on Bus “Happy.” (In this post , Up and Anchorman are the only movies that I had seen before college.)

11. The Social Network (2010)

Rating: 7/10

There was SO much hype about this movie, but I didn’t see how it was THAT good. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that great either. Acting is probably the strongest part of this movie.

12. Adaptation (2002)

Rating: 10/10

A really interesting, mind-boggling, and emotional movie. Watched this on the last night of my stay in NYC, i.e., last night. My long-spent hours on TV Tropes finally paid off, for they made me very knowledgeable about the movie’s screenwriting references. Also, I watched this movie with Kayla, a film major, and this actually made the experience even more enjoyable. Seriously!

Inception (2010)

Inception

Rating: 9/10

Nolan’s mind-boggling dream film is a stunning and outstanding experience.

Although the idea of existing in another person’s dream is not new, Inception combines together several thoughts on dreams and presents them in an original and thrilling way. In the book Through the Looking Glass (1871, sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Alice is told she is not inhabiting her own dream, but the Red King’s. (“Life, what is it but a dream?”) In Inception, when Mal and Cobb are in limbo (before the events of the movie), Mal seems to echo Alice in her denial of the dream world: “‘I AM real!’ said Alice and began to cry.” But then, plot twist occurs.

Inception definitely reminds the viewer of The Matrix, which also has actors switching between illusion and reality. The scene where Cobb teaches Ariadne the foundations of the dream world strongly evokes the scene where Morpheus teaches Neo the foundations of the Matrix.  Nolan’s film, however, goes into multiple dream layers, which have very important roles in the story. And yet, overall the two films are different, and both have their crowning moments.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey

Rating: 10/10

“What the HECK did I just see?” was my first reaction to this film. Its bizarre visual effects, classical music, philosophical design, and surreal scenes make it one of the best movies I’ve ever watched, and certainly the most mind-boggling.

I had just viewed (not for the first time) the Star Wars saga—all six episodes—less than a week before watching this film, so, needless to say, it vastly changed my expectations of a great science fiction film. Even though Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) was released nine years after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), both are very compelling.

The main shock is the focus on art rather than action. The first half hour is a very slow, creative one: something that a viewer would either love or hate. There’s no dialogue or any speech until the second section of four. Director Stanley Kubrick truly understood the meaning of “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A slowly moving picture with music is worth even more.

The film becomes more conventional when we encounter HAL, the supercomputer and main antagonist (though it is revealed in 2010: Odyssey Two that HAL’s malfunctions in the first episode were caused by its faithful following of contradictory human orders). Here is a nice philosophical, future-predicting moment—even with today’s technology, HAL is science fiction and not a real machine.

HAL

That. I had definitely seen it before, but hadn’t the slightest idea what it was until I watched 2001.

At the end, i.e., from the Star Gate scene onwards, the film becomes extremely mind-boggling. The best to which I can compare it would be this Magritte painting:

Magritte

That’s a pretty accurate representation of the ending without giving away anything.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

How to Train Your Dragon

Rating: 7/10

A surprisingly good film. By the way, I watched this on the Chicago–Beijing flight.

This animated film had a very convincing plot, excellent plot twist, and a good mix of Viking customs with dragon lore and fantasy. I was delighted by the film’s humor as well, especially in the protagonist’s name—Hiccup—and in the blacksmith’s tone that is jolly no matter the situation.

Hiccup is one of the best animated heroes. This was overall an enjoyable film in every regard. I wasn’t particular impressed by the music, however, though it might be in part due to the airplane’s constant noise, but it was still enjoyable.