The Best and Worst of 2010

Note that I began 2010 by using a 10-point scale, so any lone number means the movie was ranked out of 10. I finished the year by using a 5-star scale, so when you see “star” written next to a number, that means it was ranked out of 5 stars.

“Last year was great for me, and made me realize my interests stretch further than simply being an actor. Taking a cue from a fellow twitter follower, my girlfriend and I decided to document every movie we watched from 2010 and rate it accordingly. There is no secret that I am obsessed with lists, and this “book keeping” allowed me to fulfill that desire, and now gives me the chance to build all the “Top X of 2010″ lists my heart desires. This is what my next couple posts will be about, covering my favorite movies I watched during the year, the biggest surprises and disappointments of the year, and the worst of the year. Only movies I watched for the first time in 2010 are eligible for these lists, but the year the movies were released does not matter.”

Top 5 Biggest Disappointments of 2010:

Honorable Mentions: The Abyss, Blade Runner: The Final Cut

5.  A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – 4
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To be fair, upon a second viewing, I ended up giving this film a bit more praise than my initial comments on this site. This is most likely because my expectations were at a 0 when reviewing it on BD instead of the 10 when seeing it in theatres. With that said, this still ranks as one my biggest disappointments of the year. A remake (or “reimagining” as everyone likes to say nowadays) of the 1984 hit of the same name, A Nightmare on Elm Street does little to set itself apart from most of the other horror schlock we get today. Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a serial killer who works in dreams, haunts the teenagers on Elm Street, trying to kill them while they sleep. Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) band together to try and rid the city of this hellish nightmare once and for all. In keeping true to its unoriginal nature, there is little difference between this 2010 remake/reimagining, and the 1984 original, making this as pointless as they come and an obvious cash-grab attempt. The Blu-ray has a ton of special features, but the movie itself is lackluster.

4.  Devil (2010) – 2 Stars
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I’m a weird guy: I am as non-theistic as can be, but I still enjoy movies that have religious overtones (Signs is, after all, one of my favorite movies ever, and I enjoyed the hell out of The Exorcism). When a movie starts getting overtly preachy, however, I shut down and the loathing begins. That is what happened with Devil (and will be happening again further down this list). It is obviously going to be a religiously-influenced movie given the title, but couldn’t they have at least been creative about it? Not only was the religion of the characters forced upon the viewer, but the movie went nowhere and felt handcuffed by its PG-13 rating. Essentially, Devil is the story of five strangers being trapped on an elevator and one among them is the Devil, killing the other passengers when the lights go out. It has a decent twist that I didn’t see coming, and is very Agatha Christie-like in its delivery, but the final five minutes of the movie are not enough to make this a recommendable title. Rent it, watch it, and forget it. That’s what I should have done.

3.  The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2010) – 2 Stars
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The Human Centipede is a victim of internet hype. Knowing about this movie for about six months now, I finally got around to watching it on Christmas Eve. Yes, the film was shot beautifully, with a wonderful use of color, and it is almost impossible to tell it is an independent film. This doesn’t make it worth watching, and I am forced to ask the question, “what the hell is the point”? Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) is a retired surgeon obsessed with conjoining different animals, and wants to make a new pet with the most dangerous animal: humans. Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) are two American tourists whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere on a way to a German club. They happen upon a house as they search for help; unfortunately for them, it is the house of Dr. Heiter. Disgusting things ensue, and then the movie ends. There is no catharsis for the victims, and not even a real conclusion for the audience. The problem is that nothing happens. Why have all this blood and put people in these unthinkable circumstances if nothing is to be gained, for either the victim or the bad guy? My problem with this film is that it is pointless. Why make a movie with absolutely no message other than “there are sick people out there”. No shit there are! We see it every day in the news, so why did I just waste 90 minutes of my life being told the same thing over and over again? Well, now I’m ranting for no discernible reason. Tom Six is obviously talented, and I hope he decides to use that talent to tell a worthwhile story in the future. I’ll leave it at that.

2.  Legion (2010) – 3
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Speaking of an overtly religious script killing any semblance of an enjoyable movie: enter Legion. I won’t spend much time here because the movie was mostly forgettable, and having not seen it in about half a year, I don’t remember much of it. One thing I cannot forget, though, is thinking how obviously conservative the director, writers, or both must be to make this movie. They do not even attempt to hide the fact that the (long, boring) speeches in the film are pro-life, and that believing in God is the only way to survive this “end of days” situation. If you put religion in movies, fine, but do it in a creative manner (this goes for any religious or political beliefs, not just one that differ from my own). Legion is the story of what happens when God gets sick of dealing with the human race, and all their flaws. He sends Angel Michael (Paul Bettany) to destroy the human race, but Michael rebels against God and decides to help the humans out. He stumbles upon a lone diner in the middle of the desert, and he and the group of people inside are the only things keeping humanity alive. From the opening biblical verse to the closing “God is tired of your bullshit” message, this movie disappointed. As I mentioned in my initial comments, the only good thing about this movie is Willa Holland in a mini-skirt. Save yourself 99 of the film’s 100 minute runtime by just Googling Willa instead.

1.  Halloween II (2009) – 3
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The reason this falls in at #1 on my list is simply because Rob Zombie can do so much better. I make it known to anyone that inquires that I love Rob Zombie’s films, starting with House of 1000 Corpses, going through the Halloween reimagining. This just did not live up to the Michael Myers name like the first one managed to. There was plenty of blood, which is great, but Zombie seemed to strip the soul of the original characters away, which I thought was there with his first Halloween remake. I loved his cinematography on the film, but everything else was a disappointment. Picking up almost exactly where the first movie ended (just like the originals), Halloween II is another bump in the road for Michael Myers (Tyler Mane), who is still trying to kill his sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). Brutal and gruesome, but lacking the soul that the first reimagining found. This was a major disappointment mostly because of who made the film – Rob Zombie – and my respect for his work. Hopefully Halloween III gets back on the right track.

Top 5 Biggest Surprises of 2010:

Honorable Mentions: Daybreakers, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Manson, My Name is Evil, Trick’r Treat

5.  Population 436 (2006) – 8
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This was a random Netflix Instant Queue viewing that managed to be quite memorable, mostly because Fred Durst (the Limp Bizkit lead singer) was not only “not bad”, but pretty darn good. In Population 436, Steve Kady, a census taker played by Jeremy Sisto, is sent to Rockwell Falls to determine why the population has seemingly miraculously stayed 436 for the last 100 years. Not long after his arrival in the small town, Kady can tell that something isn’t right, and the town doesn’t want him to leave. Fred Durst plays Deputy Bobby Caine, the young lawman who was put in charge because the elders in the town figured he would be easy to control. Durst is the stand-out actor in this film mostly because he has the most intriguing character. Population 436 manages to be an unsettling film that tells an interesting story, and is absolutely worth a rental. If you can find it under $5, I would recommend purchasing it.

4.  The Canyon (2009) – 7
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I must’ve said this a dozen times this past year on The Movie Files, but I am going to repeat it again: I enjoy survival films. Bridgette and I put on The Canyon because we thought it was a different movie (A Perfect Getaway; a fine film, but nothing more). Had it not been for this mistake, there is no way I would have given this movie a chance. Fortunately, I’m an idiot, and we got to enjoy a beautiful tale of two newlywed’s survival in the Grand Canyon. Nick (Eion Bailey) and Lori (Yvonne Strahovski) decided that an excursion to the Grand Canyon would be a dream come true for their honeymoon. They turn to a veteran guide (played excellently by Will Patton) to show them some spots that most tourists miss. Tragedy strikes as a viper bite takes out the guide, leaving the young couple on their own, in the middle of this foreign canyon, fighting against the wilderness to survive. Baily and Strahovski work well together, and the story pulls at the heartstrings. Another one that I highly recommend renting, and now that it’s available on Netflix Instant Queue, it is a no-brainer.

3.  Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) – 8
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Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that this comedy went a bit under the radar this year, coming out at the end of March, the same day as the very popular animated film How to Train Your Dragon. Missing it in theatres, I picked it up on a whim when it released on Blu-ray, and had a great time with it. Adam (John Cusak), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Corddry) are 40-somethings who are all disappointed with their lives. In order to find some of the excitement they all shared when they were younger, they head to their old hangout: a winter resort. They drag Jacob (Clark Duke), Adam’s nephew, along for the trip. Thanks to a mixture of vodka, energy drinks and a time traveling hot tub, the foursome is magically sent back to the 1980s. They now need to find a way back so that Jacob can be born, and their lives go back to the way they should be. Hot Tub Time Machine has a moronic plot that manages to work really well. The 80s nostalgia factor will be there for some viewers as an added benefit, but the best part about this movie are the relationships between the characters. Clark Duke does a good job once he stops trying to be a mix of Superbad’s Jonah Hill and Michael Cera about halfway through the movie. Cusak, Robinson, and Corddry do a great job as well, but some of the jokes seemed force. This doesn’t kill the movie’s momentum, which manages to be a fun ride all the way through.

2.  Punisher: War Zone (2008) – 8
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Towards the end of the summer last year, The Movie Files went on a action flick craze, and most of them were a blast. The biggest shocker of the group, though, had to be Punisher: War Zone. After seeing the 2004 version of The Punisher (with John Travolta and Tom Jane), my expectations for this version, given the lesser known cast and director, were pretty low. War Zone makes the 2004 Punisher look like a Disney film, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Taking the inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Batman series (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), Punisher: War Zone is the adult Punisher movie that fans have been waiting for. Pulling no punches, Frank Castle kicks ass from start to finish making this one of my favorite action films I watched in 2010. In Punisher: War Zone, Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) attempts to take down crime boss Billy Russoti (Dominic West). In doing so, he disfigures him, creating the Punisher’s toughest enemy to date: the psychotic Jigsaw. Wayne Knight (of Seinfeld and Jurassic Park fame) co-stars as Frank’s handyman and weapons expert, and does an excellent job. Stevenson is relentless as the Punisher, and West is sadistic as Jigsaw, making this cast shine. There is one shot at the end of the film that is outstanding, and one of the most memorable images of last year. Punisher: War Zone was a shocker, but not quite the biggest of the year. This is a must-own for fans of the comic book, and actioners in general.

1.  The Children (2008) – 8
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There are a couple of reason why The Children stands out as the #1 biggest surprise of last year: one, The Children is sold at Walmart in the budget Blu-ray section for about $5 (usually the mark of a wonderfully bad film); two, it is part of the Ghost House Underground series, known for their less-than-stellar horror movies. The kids in The Children make the kids of Children of the Corn look like a group of misunderstood youth. Set in England at Christmas-time, Elaine (Eva Birthistle) and Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) drive their five kids to visit Elaine’s sister’s house. They meet up with Chloe (Rachel Shelley), her husband Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield), and their two kids (that makes four adults and seven kids for those keeping score). Everything seems normal, even the arguing children, until some of the kids’ behavior starts to change. One by one, the children get meaner, and their motives become murderous. There are problems with the plot (such as answering “why” or “how”) but the pacing of the film, and the characters themselves are enough to suck the viewer in. The Children finds an excellent “creepy” factor – probably because of the use of evil kids, which are innately eerie – and had some nice cinematographic choices, including the beautiful, snow-cover English countryside (which looks even better covered in blood). The ending leaves room for a sequel, and The Children deserves as much. The sequel could answer most, if not all, of the questions the first movie left open. This is an example of an independent crew getting horror right; because that’s so rare, it always shocks the hell out of me.

Top 5 Worst Movies I Watched in 2010:

Honorable Mentions: Cabin Fever 2: Spring BreakThe Grudge 3

5.  Header (2006) – 1 Star
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To be honest, this list is pretty interchangeable, and #5 and #4 could just have easily been #1 and #2, and so on. In order to keep with my formatting from before, though, I numbered these ones as well. Header has one of the most disgusting concepts I have seen to-date. I won’t give away any spoilers, but when the audience finds out exactly what a “header” is, I imagine his or her stomach will turn as much as mine did. This isn’t what makes Header a bad movie, though. Why Header is on this list is because of the terrible acting, the awful script, and poorly told story. The characters are about as cliche as they can get, and the cameos from authors Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum are not nearly enough to make this movie watchable. Save yourself the time and the upset stomach and skip this film.

4.  The Brazen Bull (2010) – 1 Star
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The Brazen Bull has one good point: Michael Madsen. Otherwise, the acting is laughable, and the story is completely unbelievable, using tired cliches to (slowly) drive the plot. The gore effects do not even look good, which is a must in a low-budget horror film like this. The biggest surprise for me in The Brazen Bull is that the director was able to get Madsen, an established, veteran actor, to join the project. This is a perfect example of garbage horror DTV releases.

3.  B.T.K. (2008) – 2
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The main reason I hated this movie so much is because the filmmakers are obviously just trying to capitalize on a terrible situation, and use the B.T.K. moniker as a way to draw audience members. This is a disgusting choice by director Michael Feifer. The movie is “based on” Dennis Rader, the infamous serial killer known by the “bind them, torture them, kill them” phrase, or B.T.K.. The acting was beyond bad, lead by the stuntman-turned-actor, Kane Hodder, and Amy Lyndon (who was much worse than Hodder). There are no redeeming qualities about B.T.K., and it should be actively avoided in all cases.

2.  Vampires Suck (2010) – ½ Star
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What’s most disappointing about this film is that there are actors in the cast who have proven track records of making us laugh in comedies. The director completely underutilizes these stars, and all of them have minor roles. The main characters are fine for this acting style, but the script is so bad that their work gets lost. Vampires Suck tries WAY to hard to be funny, and, as it always does, this makes it fall flat on its face. This is a parody that had no business being made, and pays no respect to the source material, which is important in any parody.

1.  The Gunslingers (2010) – ½ Star
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Awful acting, terrible script, dumb story, and even worse directing make The Gunslingers the worst movie I had the displeasure of watching in 2010. The production values of this movie are painfully low, and the green screen work is some of the worst I have ever seen (if you can’t use it right, do not use it at all, please). The Gunslingers isn’t even good enough to appear as a late-night SyFy Channel movie. If you look at the Netflix review of this film, it is hilarious to see the people who enjoy the movie, bad-mouthing those who see it only for the poor effort it is. There is nothing original about The Gunslingers, and thus it is to be avoided.

Top 10 Movies I Watched in 2010:

Honorable Mentions: (500) Days of SummerAfter.LifeDangerous LiaisonsZombieland

10. The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) – 4 ½ Stars
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Buy The Disappearance of Alice Creed on Blu-ray
This movie will make another appearance later on in my “top of 2010” lists as an honorable mention in the biggest surprise category. I’ve received a lot of movies these past few months thanks to my new job at Inside Pulse – Movies (IP Movies). Some of these have been flops, and others have shocked me. This falls into the latter category. The Disappearance of Alice Creed blew me away. It was artfully filmed, filled with surprises that kept getting better, and it was some of the finest acting I had the pleasure of seeing this year (but most these movies on this list will have that same note). Following the story of the kidnappers more so than the kidnaped, this is a fresh take on the crime genre and one that has me begging for more of director J Blakeson’s work. I really see this man making a huge impact on the film world in the coming years, and The Disappearance of Alice Creed is (hopefully) only the start of his bright future.

9. Star Trek (2009) – 9
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Buy Star Trek (Three-Disc Edition) on Blu-ray
Star Trek would have sat in my top 3 for 2009 if I was lucky enough to see it in theatres. For someone who is by no means a “Trekkie”, this movie sucked me in with great visuals and an intriguing story. Having watched this way back at the beginning of 2010, it is hard for me to recall specifics, but I do remember some great performances by young actors. I am hoping a sequel to this gets released soon because I would love to see these actors take on the legendary Star Trek roles again. The Blu-ray looked great, and is the one BD I am most disappointed that I don’t own. I will remedy this in the future, as I always do.

8. Frozen (2010) – 4 Stars 
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Frozen spun me around, punched me in the gut, and forced me to put it in this top 10 list. Completely unexpectedly, Adam Green’s simple premise of three skiers being trapped on a snow lift is a survival tale worth owning. Parker (Emma Bell), Dan (Kevin Zegers), and Joe (Shawn Ashmore) convince the ski-lift operator to allow them one last ride down the hill before the ski resort closes for the week. The operator leaves the area to use the restroom, leaving another man in charge. He sees three skiers come down the hill, as he was warned he would, and shuts the ski lift off. With a huge snow storm moving in, the normal rounds are not made, leaving the three skiers, literally, hanging. As I mentioned in my review, sometimes it’s the simplest concepts that can make the biggest impact. This movie is haunting, and doesn’t let the viewer forget the hell that these three skiers go through trying to survive. Adam Green simply hit the mark with Frozen.

7. Piranha 3D (2010) – 4 Stars 
The Movie Files Review
Buy Piranha on Blu-ray
I am willing to bet that this will be the only non-horror site that lists Piranha 3D in its Top 10 list. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t include this because it was, without a doubt, the most fun I had in the theatre in 2010. Yes, 3D is gimmicky and mostly lame, but director Alexandre Aja understands this and goes to the extreme (“nude 3D water dances” is all I need to say here), making it work. The homage this horror film pays to the greats of the past (such as Jaws, and the excellent use of Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd) is hilarious and well executed. The story may be juvenile, and the film may lack any wonderful acting talent, but this is a throwback to those 70s and 80s horror movies that fans of the genre revere. Fans of the genre will love Piranha 3D, while others will stick their nose up at it, which is fine; Aja didn’t make this film for non-genre fans, which is why I loved it so much. Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t filthy, stinking rich enough lucky enough to own a 3DTV will miss out on some of the fun when it releases to Blu-ray next week. That said, this is still a release-day purchase for me. Maybe I’m stuck as a perverted teenager, but a movie that mixes hot women, over-the-top gore, plenty of action, and laugh-out-loud comedy is still a winner in my book.

6. Up (2009) – 10 
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Buy Up on Four-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo
There is a reason Up won the Oscar for best animated film of 2009: it’s brilliant. Telling the heartwarming story of an old man’s quest to find happiness after a tragic situation, and the young boy who brings it for him, Up became my favorite Disney/Pixar film (second only to Monsters, Inc.) when I watched it earlier this year. It is a great family film because it touches on making the right choices in tough situations, and really transcends age. It didn’t hurt that this still stands out as one the best looking Blu-rays I watched this year, but that is more a nod to the beautiful art direction than anything else. With lovable characters and heartwarming, tearjerker moments, Up should be mandatory viewing for anyone interested in Disney/Pixar.

5. Toy Story 3 (2010) – 10 
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Speaking of the best Blu-ray releases of the year, Toy Story 3 comes in at #5. Another 2010 release making the list (which is why I don’t see a need to make a “top 10 of 2010 releases” list at this point), Toy Story 3 met and exceeded every expectation I had coming in. Before seeing this in theatres (now this is an example of a wasted 3D outing, and one I wish I could get my extra $3 back on), Bridgette and I re-watched the first two in the series. There is no doubt that the original Toy Story is, and will forever be, the best in the series, but that is simply because of the originality of being first. Toy Story 2 dropped in quality a bit, but still manages a great effort. Toy Story 3 fits snugly in between the two, finding a way to be original, but familiar, as any great sequel should. Andy is all grown up and heading off to college. He decides to pack up his toys and plans to leave them in the attic, but his mom grabs the bag of toys, mistaking them for a goodwill bag, and drops them off at a local daycare center. Woody tries to convince the rest of the toys that this was a mistake, and convinced them to try to return home to Andy. It is the most “grown up” story out of the trilogy, and finds a way, like its predecessors, to be fun for kids and adults alike. If this doesn’t win the Golden Globe for best animated film of the year, I will be shocked.

4. Wanted (2008) – 9 
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This is another film that won my heart because of the action. The original comic book by Mark Millar (spoiler: this isn’t the last time his name will be used on this list) focuses on super-villains, where as the film adaptation focuses on assassins, but the fun and violence of the comic book is still present in the film. Angelina Jolie looks beautiful (if not a bit too skinny) in the movie, and Morgan Freeman is excellent as always, but the real stand-out in Wanted is James McAvoy. His transformation from white collar wuss to black suit badass is excellent. The special effects are great, the story is engaging, and the acting is high caliber. The film has a very Fight Club feel to it, and anyone who enjoyed that will find a lot to love here. Wanted made me realize how much I enjoy actioners, as well as horror.

3. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) – 4 ½ Stars 
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Buy Paranormal Activity 2 on Blu-ray
If Piranha 3D was the most fun I had in theatres in 2010, Paranormal Activity 2 was the most scared 90 minutes I had in theatres in 2010. As much I disliked the first movie, it is surprising I even made the trip to theatres to see this one. Fortunately Paranormal Activity 2 lived up the hype this time around. This was, without a doubt, the best widely released horror film of the year. Acting as a sort of prequel/sequel mix, Paranormal Activity 2 follows the lives of a young family who install a security system because they fear they are being burglarized. Where the original only had one camera, and got boring after a while, Paranormal Activity 2 used the multi-camera setup to its fullest, and keeps the audience engaged. They are slower moments in the film, but these are necessary to achieve the scares later on. Most importantly, the characters are likable in this sequel, which cannot be said for the original, where a whiny women and idiotic boyfriend ruled the screen. The addition of a baby and a dog only added to the tension, and the scares. Subtle, scary, and fun, Paranormal Activity 2 gets my highest recommendation for horror fans.

2. Kick-Ass (2010) –5 Stars 
The Movie Files Review
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Mark Millar, a comic book creator, finds his name on the list again thanks to a wonderful adaptation of his Kick-Ass series. Coming in to this film, I hoped to be entertained for a couple of hours; coming out, I found myself begging for the sequel. Kick-Ass tells the story of a high school boy, Dave Lizewski, who is sick of all the bad people in the world winning. Dave decides to take things into his own hands, mostly thanks to his love for comic books. He learns some martial arts moves and buys a wetsuit off the internet. What starts as a crazy idea finally becomes a reality when he decides to help out someone being bullied. Because he is under trained, he gets his ass kicked, and tells his father he was mugged. After months of physical rehabilitation, Dave is able to walk again, and decides that he still needs to be the one to save the city. This time, as he helps out a guy getting beat up, a bystander records the action on his smartphone and uploads it to YouTube. This sparks Kick-Ass (as he is named) to be an internet hit, and cements Dave’s crazy dream of becoming a superhero. Kick-Ass forms like a snowball, starting small, with petty crimes, and eventually growing to taking down a super-villain (and his boy-wonder son, played by the wonderful Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad fame). The acting is great, but what really drives this to #2 on my list is the story and characters. Hit Girl, a 10-and-1/4-year-old weapons expert (played by stellar Chloe Mertz), is one of the best characters I watched this year, and, alone, is worth the price of admission. There was little I could find wrong with Kick-Ass, and as such, it ends up as the second best movie I watched this past year. I just Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall ends up as high on my 2011/2012 list.

1. The Social Network (2010) – 5 Stars
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Buy The Social Network on Blu-ray
I didn’t get a chance to see this until after a lot of the Top 10 lists were already out, and the Golden Globe nominees were revealed, so to say this movie had a lot of hype to live up to is a vast understatement. The Social Network blew that hype out of the water, though, and ends up as the best movie I watched last year, and the best film of 2010. Being of my age, I spent a ton of my time in undergraduate on Facebook, and have always been intrigued on how it has become a household, billion dollar name. The best part of The Social Network, though, is not the story of how Facebook was created, but the story of those who created it. The performances were, all-around, brilliant, and shows how much young talent is out there to be used. The stand-out for me, however, was Andrew Garfield. I cannot get over how excellent this guy was in The Social Network, and I imagine I will be saying the same for his performance in the upcoming Spiderman reboot. Jesse Eisenberg cements himself as THE actor to watch in the coming years, and Armie Hammer is stunning in the dual-roles of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. David Fincher is a brilliant man, and, I am just realizing as I research, has created some of my favorite movies to date (ZodiacFight ClubSe7en, and the upcoming English version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and The Social Network is just another along the line of a marvelous career. This is an absolute must-see.

 


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