Ten Kick-Ass Films From 2010

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2010 certainly wasn’t an exceptional year for cinema, but I went to my local picture house a few times and watched many more new releases on DVD. The ten I’ve chosen are evenly split between those I watched at home and those I saw at the cinema and are also finely balanced between adaptations and original films. Some of my favourite directors followed up on earlier successes, but it was my first time coming across three of the filmmakers below. A common theme in many of my choices was the high quality of the female characters on offer and this was matched by some wonderful acting as well. The first film is from Sweden and it introduces one of recent cinema’s more interesting characters. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was actually released in Sweden early in 2009 and throughout mainland Europe later that year. However, it wasn’t given a general release in Britain and Ireland until last year. It is Danish director Niels Arden Oplev‘s fifth film and is the first of three adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s popular series of crime novels. Michael Nyqvist gives an understated performance as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist who accepts an offer from the head of a wealthy family to delve back into the unsolved case of his missing niece. He is soon assisted by a young computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander, an enigmatic character who is brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace. She certainly plays her part in making this a rivetting and stylish thriller. Inevitably, a Hollywood remake is on its way, though the good news is that it’s going to be directed by David Fincher. Fincher started out directing music videos before making his big screen debut with Alien 3. He then went on to make five thrillers of variable quality, with Seven and Fight Club being the highlights. This year he directed Aaron Sorkin’s fine script of The Accidental Billionaire, Ben Mezrich’s book about the founder of Facebook. The Social Network could have been just an ordinary teen flick, but becomes a fascinating study of greed and power in the hands of Sorkin and Fincher

Another excellent film about power, corruption and lies was Roman Polanski‘s The Ghost, co-written by the director and the writer of the original novel, Robert Harris. Pierce Brosnan is a retired English Prime Minister, whose character bears uncanny similarities to Tony Blair. Ewan McGregor does a fine job as a ghost writer who has been brought in to tidy up the former politician’s memoirs following the apparent accidental death of the previous ghost writer. The script and actors are well-directed by Polanksi and I really liked its concluding scene. Debra Granik followed up her award-winning debut feature, Down to the Bone, with the even more bleak and powerful Winter’s Bone. As on her first film, Granik co-wrote the script with Anne Rosellini. It was adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel and he had been aware of their interest before it was even published. The low-budget film features a stunning performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, the teenage daughter of a depressive mother and an absent father who is tasked with the role of looking after her mother and two younger siblings. Her father is on the run having used the family home as collateral for his bail money. The fellow criminal who paid his bail informs Ree that he will take their house if her father does not show up within a week. The film is full of powerful images and startling scenes and was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at last year’s Sundance Film Festival

The fifth and final adaptation on my list is Matthew Vaughn‘s Kick-Ass, based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Vaughn’s third film is a return to the form of his debut, Layer Cake, and he co-wrote its script with Jane Goldman. Both the novel and film parody the superhero genre as well as contemporary celebrity culture. Aaron Johnson is good as the titular hero, but 13-year-old Chloe Moretz steals the show as the foul-mouthed 11-year-old vigilante Hit-Girl. I went to see it shortly after reading the graphic novel and I thoroughly enjoyed both. I was a big fan of Brass Eye, Channel 4′s series of spoof documentaries, so I was delighted to hear that its creator and star, Chris Morris, was to direct his first film. Four Lions is the result and this blackly comic film was co-written by Morris with Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. Morris had never been afraid to tackle taboo subjects on his TV series and his debut feature manages to successfully satirise terrorism by following a group of fictional Muslim terrorists from Sheffield and their inept attempt to cause mayhem at the London Marathon

Noah Baumbach writes and directs all his films and The Squid & the Whale is the best known one. Greenberg is his sixth and it combines humour and drama as it focuses on the relationship between depressive Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) and his brother’s assistant, the quirky Florence (Greta Gerwig). Stiller is not as annoying as he can be, but Gerwig is quite charming and natural. She has been making low-budget films for a number of years now and and her presence on screen made this quite watchable for me. I went to see The Kids Are All Right on the same night that I watched The Social Network and I must say I enjoyed it just as much. It’s the fifth film from director Lisa Cholodenko, who co-wrote the script with Stuart Blumberg. It features another couple of interesting characters in the shape of Jules and Nic, a lesbian couple who each have had a kid via the same sperm donor. The now-teenage kids track him down and the film primarily focuses on the different relationships between these five. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are very good as the lesbian couple and the film shows that this modern family is no better or worse than a traditional one. The trials and tribulations of a wealthy Milanese family are the focus of Luca Guadagnino‘s I Am Love. The Italian director is primarily known as a documentary maker, though he also had some success with his previous feature film, Melissa P. (2005). Guadagnino co-wrote the script with Barbara Alberti and co-produced it with its star, Tilda Swinton. The project has been a labour of love for the pair as they’ve been trying to get it made for over a decade. It’s certainly been worth it as Swinton brings yet another strong female character to life

Christopher Nolan has never been known for creating strong female characters and his latest film is no exception. Nolan had also been working on Inception for nearly a decade and his box office successes with a couple of Batman movies gave him a bit of clout in the industry. He is usually involved in the writing as well as the directing and Inception is also the third successive one that he has produced. As well as the Batman films, Nolan has made four thrillers prior to Inception and one of their common characteristics is how he messes with the chronological order of the plot. This was most notable on his second feature, Memento (2000), where every second scene alternates between the present in normal time in colour followed by black-and-white flashbacks told in reverse chronological order until both come together at the end of the film! Inception is a sci-fi thriller in the style of Phillip K. Dick that centres on the spy played by Leonardo DiCaprio who steals secrets from people’s brains by getting inside their heads with some kind of dream machine. The film has achieved notoriety for its complex and convoluted plot, but its apparent complex nature is a result of Nolan deliberately withholding key information from the characters and the audience until late in the film. Ellen Page’s character is completely underused as the sidekick who constantly asks questions and thus stands in for the audience and their queries. However, her role wouldn’t have been necessary if Nolan had set up the story and this fictional world properly in the first place. Despite these criticisms, Inception makes my final ten because it kept me entertained for two hours at the cinema and stayed with me for a while afterwards. I also liked its ending, which I know didn’t go down too well with a lot of cinemagoers. I’m going to make my exit with three cover versions from Gloria Crawford, Mercury Rev and Vampire Weekend that centre around the theme of moving pictures

Sad Movies (Sue Thompson cover) – Gloria Crawford

Motion Pictures (Neil Young cover) – Mercury Rev

Exit Music (For a Film) (Radiohead cover) – Vampire Weekend

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2 thoughts on “Ten Kick-Ass Films From 2010

  1. Cheers, Eric. Those are two good films, alright. You should check out a film from the early 70s called Chinatown. It was directed by the guy who made The Ghost, roman Polanski, and it stars Jack Nicholson in one of his best roles. The director of the Social Network, David Fincher, started out making thrillers and Seven starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman is great. Hopefully, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your hands on those

  2. I watched the movie The Ghost and I really loved the story, I also watched the Social Network, the story was great and I can relate to this. I am not able to watch some of the movies you mentioned but I’m pretty sure its worth watching so I’m in a movie hunting now. thanks for sharing! :)

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