Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Movies Relative Rankings (10/21)

Here is the list of movies that I saw at the theater in 2010. They are rated (0 to 4 stars) and ranked relative to each other. Check for newer posts updating this list with new movies as I see them.

Last Update: 10/21 - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

#1 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (****)
Place: Alamo Drafthouse Village w/Madison
Notes: First things first: I know a lot of people will question this being in the top spot. This movie isn't for everybody. In fact, it's failing pretty miserably at the box office right now, and I'm not surprised. A lot of people will dismiss it as a "video game movie" or a "comic book movie", and that's unfortunate. I read a review (after watching it for myself) saying that SPVTW wouldn't reach anyone over the age of 25. This is nonsense. I'm in the upper half of "the mid 30's", and it affected me more than any other movie I've seen this year. Sure, I grew up on video games when they came on cartridges ("tapes" to my parents) and MTV before the advent of reality shows, but I mean, I connected with this movie on a level beyond the Zelda references and pop-up video presentation. Regardless of what the trailers and comic and video game blogs would have you believe, this movie is about interpersonal relationships between friends, lovers and siblings. Most people won't look past the computer graphics and ADD presentation, but somehow, it affected me. I'm not going to say that I related to it on a personal level because Scott's life and my life are quite dissimilar, but it made me re-evaluate and think about my own relationships. It may appear like I'm reading too much into a silly popcorn flick, but trust me, I wasn't going into this movie with a film student demeanor. I expected what everyone else expected: a bunch of pretty colors and nerdy references. But I saw what I saw and felt what I felt. And I felt genuinely bad for the some of the characters. Hell, I dreamt about them. You see, while the actual ending of the movie was fine, I personally saw no 'good' way to end the movie. So I think I subconsciously continued the movie in my head. And any movie that can make me do that deserves 4 stars and the top spot in my list. This movie is far more than it pretends to be, but I don't expect most people to understand, and that makes me a bit sad.

#2 Grease Sing-A-Along (****)
Place: Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar w/Audrey (subbing for Claire)
Notes: I hesitated to put this in at all because this movie originally came out in 1978, but I am including it for two reasons: 1) It is a movie that I saw in the theater in 2010 2) It's not technically the same movie. All the songs (except the intro theme song for some strange reason) have animated lyrics and extras on the screen. They decided to get creative when they animated the "Greased Lightning" lyrics because they say "shit" (#*@$) , "tit" (a picture of a cow showing her udder), "the chicks'll cream" (whipped cream), and "pussy" (a pussy cat, naturally). The animation was all well done. Apparently they spent $100,000 re-doing the film. It's definitely a new experience. FYI: Grease is the gayest movie I'll admit to loving. And the sing-a-long version is even more awesome.

#3 Inception (****)
Place: Cinemark Pflugerville w/Claire
Notes: You'll notice that I didn't see this at the Drafthouse or in an XD Cinemark theater. We couldn't make it to the Drafthouse in our allotted babysitter time, and we DID buy XD tickets, but the XD theater's right front speaker was blown so we had to exchange tickets for a standard theater. Standard theaters suck. That being said, this movie did not suck. In fact, it was very good. It's the love child of Vanilla Sky (Abre Los Ojos) and Memento from the night they invited over The Matrix for a threesome. I'm suprised that it's so popular as its non-sequential presentation and nested realities can be disorienting for the less cerebral moviegoers. Had Nolan not directed The Dark Knight, this movie would have been relegated to the art house theaters. I would definitely recommend that people watch this movie, but honestly, it's not the movie of the century the way some people would have you believe. I think what's happening is that Inception is the first non-traditional, non-straightforward movie that a lot of people have seen, so they are astounded. If all you normally see is shit like Predators, Transformers and Twilight, then Inception seems like it's from another world. If you're already fans of Primer or Memento, you won't be as impressed.

#4 Toy Story 3 (****)
Place: In 3D XD theater at Cinemark Pflugerville w/Family
Notes: Superb writing and direction. Funny and heart warming. The 3D and CG-ness don't even matter.

#5 The Other Guys (***1/2)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek with Claire
Notes: I fully admit that I had written off this movie based solely on the trailer. It looked horrible. But after a multitude of "Hey, it was pretty good!"s from a few sources and an offer to watch the kids from my sister-in-law just so that we could see the movie, I couldn't NOT go see it. And, yep, it was indeed pretty good! There were some very funny exchanges between Will Ferrell and Marky Mark, and a lot of over the top action. The slow-mo bar scene was brilliant. I found myself wishing it was a bit longer. The plot was absolutely throwaway garbage and simply existed to tie in the scenes in some loose fashion. This movie was just -made- to be chopped up into 30 3 minute youtube clips.

#6 The Kung Fu Kid (aka The Karate Kid) (***1/2)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek with Madison
Notes: I really enjoyed this re-make/re-imagining. I have nothing but praise for Jaden Smith. His acting was quite good. He showed good range. His athleticism and martial arts skills were infinitely more believable than Macchio's. I enjoyed noting the parallels between the original movie and the new one. The story is still as far fetched as ever, but it's also still as fun. Jackie Chan was great too. The name is the worst part of this film as there is no karate in it.

#7 Kick-Ass (***1/2)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek by myself
Notes: Enjoyable, aestheticized violence. Hit Girl easily steals the show. I never read the comics so no comment on adaptation.

#8 How to Train Your Dragon (***1/2)
Place: 3D Cinemark Round Rock Outlets w/Maddie
Notes: Better than I expected. A bit preachy, but not overly so. Good use of 3D.

#9 Despicable Me (***)
Place: In 3D XD theater at Cinemark Pflugerville w/Entire Family (including Mom/Dad/Sister)
Notes: My parents and sister hadn't seen a 3D film in a long time (i.e. they don't have a 5 year old) so they were pretty impressed with the visuals. I'm more jaded. They were good, not great. The story was actually a little different than I expected, in a good way. My sister and Claire got a little teary-eyed, but it's not a sob story movie. Overall, it's a well made, enjoyable movie.

#10 #Machete (***)
Place: Alamo Drafthouse Village w/Claire
Notes: Robert Rodriguez sure knows how to make a schlocky 1970's film in the 21st Century. If Planet Terror and Grindhouse were his tribute to the 1970's, this is his re-imagining of the genre. It was crude, rude and yes, even tattooed. But all in all it was fun, and exactly what I was expecting. One has to wonder though: if this film was made by a no-name director, would it even have been screened at mainstream theaters? Scott Sander's tribute to the 1970's Blaxploitation genre "Black Dynamite" was every bit as good as Rodriguez's "Machete", but have you even heard of that film? Didn't think so. P.S. It's good to see Don Johnson finding work again. :-)

#11 Exit through the Gift Shop (***)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek by myself
Notes: I saw this on Pete's recommendation. It's a documentary about street art. It was entertaining. There is no other way for me to describe it. It wasn't the best (King of Kong) or worst (Kurt and Courtney) documentary I've ever seen. The big hook, whether or not the entire thing was a hoax put on by Banksy, was irrelevant to me. I simply don't care. Unless you're really into documentaries or street art, I'd wait for it to show up on cable or on Netflix streaming.

#12 Iron Man 2 (***)
Place: In XD theater at Cinemark Pflugerville w/Family
Notes: I enjoyed it more than the original film. A bit too unbelievable even for a comic book movie. Iron Man does not have memorable villains.

#13 Shutter Island (***)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek w/Claire
Notes: Well acted and directed. Interesting plot albeit with a pretty see-thru twist. Even still, I found it quite enjoyable.

#14 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (***) NEW
Place: 3D at Cinemark Pflugerville w/Madison
Notes: Honestly, I expected to like this more than I did. I mean, I liked it. But, well, I just expected more "something". I can't quite place what that "something" is... even now. I remember thinking that the trailers were breathtaking. And I do have to admit that this is probably the most technically proficient CG movie I've ever seen. The water and feather details were amazing. The 3D was used well. None of that "Comin' at Ya'" 3D crap. Honestly, with the resurgence of 3D in the late 2000's/early 2010's, I think we've kinda gotten passed that. I rarely see movies throwing spears toward the audience anymore. But, back to the movie. It was good. Voice acting was solid. The script was solid. The plot wasn't too preachy or anything like that. I dunno. It was solid movie with breathtaking CG. Nothing more to say really.

#15 A Town Called Panic (***)
Place: Drafthoue Ritz w/Aaron
Notes: Saw this subtitled. It's stop motion animation, but technically, it's no where near the quality of Henry Selick's work. It was funny, but less so than I expected. Better if you're drunk/high.

#16 Get Him to the Greek (***)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek by myself
Notes: I didn't know much about the film, but Pete had wanted to see it so I gave it a try. I knew nothing of Russell Brand going into this (his accent seemed almost fake at first.) The Drafhouse played his stand-up before the movie, and I could have watched just that for 2 hours. I found the movie very funny at times and more than a little bit sad in many places which I didn't expect. Couldn't stop thinking about how huge Jonah Hill was though.

#17 The Crazies (**1/2)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek w/Claire
Notes: Reminded a bit of Left 4 Dead. Pretty standard virus/zombie fare. It was basically a clone of 28 Days Later.

#18 Prince of Persia (**1/2)
Place: Drafthouse Lake Creek w/Pete
Notes: Better than I expected, but not great. The CG was abundant. High end production. I thought Chesty Jake was just fine as the Prince.

#19 Shrek Forever After (**1/2)
Place: 3D in XD at Cinemark Pflugerville w/Family
Notes: Shrek's cultural gags -were- cool, but they've gotten stale. The underlying story is pretty weak. I've seen better (and worse) kid's films.

#20 The Last Exorcism (**)
Place: Cinemark Pflugerville w/Claire
Notes: This was one of the WORST movie-going experience of my life. It was even worse than the discount cinema experience (see the 'Splice' review!) Claire and I went to the 10:00pm showing on the Saturday of opening weekend. We expected it to be packed as I had heard some good things about the movie on a News 8 Austin movie review. (They gave it a 6 out of 8.) We got there around 9:15p and rushed to the ticket booth. As we approached, we noticed two large groups of black kids ranged from maybe 15 to 25 all huddled right in front of it. At first we thought they might have been 'in line' but, no, they were content just hanging out in front of the ticket booth for some reason. After we made our way around the crowd and got tickets, we made a beeline for the theater. To our surprise, even though it was just 35 minutes until showtime, there were only 3 people in the theater. We decided that we could both get snacks together since the theater was nearly empty. When we got to the lobby, the crowd of black kids was now huddled in front of the concession stand. Why? I haven't a clue, but there they were. Still, we worked our way passed them, got our snacks, and returned to the theater with plenty of time to spare. We sat in the 5th row, right in the middle. About 10 'til 10, two overweight ghetto girls plopped themselves right next to Claire and I. The one to my left could have passed for a 'Precious' stunt double. The one to Claire's right was white and wore about a pound of make-up. They both immediately pulled out their cell phones and started texting away. Yay. Through the previews and into the movie they texted. I noticed that the crowd seemed to be very loud even as the movie started. I looked around and was shocked to see that 70-75% of the crowd was black and/or ghetto. I checked my ticket stub. Nope, it wasn't a Friday movie we'd ventured into by accident. We slunked into our seats. They got louder and more rowdy. One of the texting girls kept smacking her mouth and shushing people so loudly that she was a disturbance herself. It was more than a bit ironic. Claire asked me if we should leave, but since we rarely get to go to the movies without the kids, I suggested that we just put up with it for a while longer. It got worse. People started laughing at the tense parts and yelling "That's my Nigga!" at the screen. From the 5th row, I counted 6 people texting/on their phones during the movie. (Side Note: They all had shitty phones!) By the end of the movie, I was furious. I've never once complained to theater management for anything, but I was heading right for the nearest manager as soon as the credits began to roll... not to get my money back, but simply to let him know that his ushers were worthless. As it turned out, I stumbled upon another patron complaining to the manager about the very same movie experience. I joined in and before too long, we were joined by another couple looking to complain. The manager seemed less that apologetic. He was more annoyed than anything, but he finally offered our money back. Horrible. The funny thing is that we were considering seeing the movie at Gold Class Cinema. Talk about the other end of the spectrum! Oh, and the movie? The last act needed a re-write. The first 2/3's of the movie were pretty enthralling and creepy. The wrapup was well... not consistent with the rest of the movie. Imagine if at the end of an Indiana Jones movie, it was all due to aliens. Wouldn't that be a jarring WTF? moment? Oh, wait.

#21 A Nightmare on Elm Street (**)
Venue: Drafthouse Lake Creek w/Claire
Notes: I like Jackie Earle Haley, and he does a good job as the new Freddy, but the make-up artist needs to get fired. He looks like he has Down's Syndrome. Also, the scenes were repetitive: isolate character, daydream, kill. Rinse. Repeat.

#22 Alice in Wonderland (**)
Venue: 3D at Drafthouse Village Baby Day w/Family
Notes: I love Tim Burton's twisted take on things, but this didn't work out so well. Maybe because Alice in Wonderland is already pretty twisted?

#23 Predators (**)
Venue: Drafthouse Lake Creek w/Aaron
Notes: I've only seen the original Predator movie, and it's been a while since I've seen it. I've heard nothing but bad things about Predator 2 and the Aliens Vs. Predator series. In any case, this movie was OK. Decent amount of action. Throwaway plot. Pretty standard stuff. I have to mention that the CG was pretty shitty though. It had the worst CG fire I've ever seen.

#24 Splice (**)
Venue: Cinemark Round Rock Discount Theater by myself
Notes: It's an Adrien Brody double feature! (I saw this the week before Predators.) While I had low expectations for Predators, I had high expecations for Splice. I saw Forrest's enthusiastic Facebook posting about this movie which piqued my interest. Now, I had never seen a movie based on Forrest's recommendation, but he seemed like someone that can appreciate good cinema. He even cited the director's previous effort, Cube. I loved Cube. Splice kinda sucked though. Ridiculous plot. Almost no suspense or horror. Terrible CG. And the strangest/grossest sex scene ever. No more recommendations from Forrest.

#25 Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief (**)
Venue: Cinemark Pflugerville w/Maddie
Notes: Say what you want in defense of the novels, but this is clearly an attempt to cash in on Harry Potter crowd. Far too little far too late.

#26 Youth in Revolt (*1/2)
Venue: Drafthouse Ritz Theater #2 w/Claire
Notes: I saw this because Master Pancake was sold out. That was a mistake. The story was terrible. The acting was mostly terrible. Michael Cera is the least talented 'actor' in recent memory. He plays himself in every single goddamn movie.

#27 The Spy Next Door (*1/2)
Venue: Cinemark Pflugerville w/Maddie
Notes: Man, Jackie Chan. What are you doing? You've fallen to Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) levels. I didn't expect much, and that's what I got.

#28 Furry Vengeance (*)
Venue: Cinemark Round Rock Outlets w/Maddie
Notes: Madison loved this movie. And while it in no way can be considered good cinema (luicrous plot, terrible special effects), it's almost so bad that it's good. But it's still bad.