Category Archives: 2010

Movies released in 2010.

Guest Review: Predators

Director: Nimród Antal
Year: 2010
Score: 7/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

"I'm flying, Jack! I'm flying!"

“I’m flying, Jack! I’m flying!”

The Predator franchise has taken a bit of a pounding during its lifetime; the lowest point for both the series and anyone who chose to watch it being AvP: Requiem. Happily, Predators gives it a nice warming shot of adrenalin, despite some very ropey casting and even ropier dialogue.

Having been dropped into a jungle, a collection of planet Earth’s most baddest asses group together and, having initially taken shelter under Adrien Brody’s nose, find themselves being hunted by a group of Predators on a jolly to their local planetary game reserve. The character roster is taken from The Children’s Book of Stereotypical Bad Guys; ranging from the Black Ops guy, through Yakuza, all the way to Machete (yes, the actual Machete; nope, I don’t know why either), and some of the dialogue is just awful. Of particular note is Adrien Brody’s character; it’s like he got the part at short notice, panicked, googled ‘how to look hard’, watched 25 seconds of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and thought ‘yep I’ve got this, let’s shoot us a movie!’. It’s so dreadful it reminds me of a badly dubbed ’70s kung fu movie.

Ignoring the dialogue and focussing on the action for a moment, Predators is in my opinion the best in the franchise since Arnie was directing people towards a helicopter. The action is clever, and whilst there’s rarely anything surprising it isn’t as predictable as the dialogue suggests it might be. You don’t build empathy with the characters, you’re only marginally interested in the plot, but it doesn’t matter; it does what an action film is supposed to do. Even Lawrence Fishburne’s bizarre 15 minute appearance doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, and it’s hard not be pleased that the Predators finally have a half decent film again.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

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Review: Barney’s Version

Director: Richard J. Lewis
Year: 2010
Score: 6/10

Presumably Mark Addy was cast as Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones on the basis of his believable drinking here.

Presumably Mark Addy was cast as Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones on the basis of his believable drinking here.

Disappointing Canadian movie adapts a book I’ll now avoid. On the positive side, it features a strong lead performance from Paul Giamatti (is he ever not great?), good support from Rosamund Pike and Dustin Hoffman, and much about the central romance rings true. On the not-so-positive side, it’s full of red herring plots that render large swathes of it pointless (for example, we’re initially presented with a possible murder mystery and by the end the mystery turns out to matter not one iota to the overall story), and it goes on too long and takes our protagonist far further than is necessary. The only thread that really matters is the relationship between Giamatti and Pike, so why do we spend time on his other marriages?

Review: 13 Assassins

Director: Takashi Miike
Year: 2010
Score: 7/10

Traditional samurai weapon #441: flaming bulls.

Traditional samurai weapon #441: flaming bulls.

Solid if slightly overrated samurai movie with good action scenes and excellent production values. The story offers very few surprises and the inevitable deaths of many of the titular assassins don’t pack much of an emotional punch. The antagonist is extremely one-dimensional; he’s sadistic, abusive of his power, and ultimately overconfident, but I couldn’t tell you anything else about him or his motivations. However, the real draw here is the samurai action, particularly in the spectacular battle that takes up most of the film’s final third. It’s also an interesting counterpoint to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies in that it shows how to better overcome the challenge of introducing and making the audience familiar with thirteen similar characters on a quest.

Review: Boy

Director: Taika Waititi
Year: 2010
Score: 7/10

I can completely understand why this was such a crowd-pleaser in cinemas. It’s very sweet and – at least for the first third or so – very funny too. As it goes on it shifts in tone and genre, traversing more dramatic territory and losing laughs in the process; this is a somewhat necessary shift, given the demands of the story, but I would have preferred more sustained comedy. James Rolleston is excellent in the titular role, and writer/director Taika Waititi is also good as his father.

Review: 127 Hours

Director: Danny Boyle
Year: 2010
Score: 7.5/10

Gripping true story of a man trapped for – you guessed it – 127 hours, and forced to take drastic measures to free himself. It’s a powerful exploration of the strength of the human spirit and will to survive. James Franco is quite good and Danny Boyle’s direction is probably as good as it can be, given the material he’s working with. My main criticism is that the hallucinations / visions / dream sequences are overdone and too dominant throughout the second half of the film; had they been dialled back about 40%, the remaining film would have been considerably stronger. Nonetheless, it’s a really good movie even if you know exactly what’s going to happen in it. Coincidentally, I watched this exactly ten years to the day after the events portrayed.

Review: Happythankyoumoreplease

Director: Josh Radnor
Year: 2010
Score: 6.5/10

Debut effort from writer/director/star Josh Radnor, this has a similar scope and tone as his follow-up, Liberal Arts, which I watched the day before. His love interest is played by Kate Mara, who I quite like. The biggest problems with this are that its three plotlines aren’t integrated well and one of them in particular (featuring Pablo Schreiber from season two of The Wire) is a dead weight. Still, the stuff with Radnor and a foster kid he accidentally takes custody of, and most scenes featuring the great Tony Hale (playing a character quite different from his two best-known roles, Buster (Arrested Development) and Gary (Veep)), are solid. It also captures its New York setting well.

Review: True Grit (2010)

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Year: 2010
Score: 8/10

Thoughtful and consistently engaging Coen Brothers western didn’t take long to push the John Wayne version out of my mind so I could judge and enjoy it on its own terms rather than by comparison. Hailee Steinfeld is excellent as the bold and forthright 14 year old girl; Jeff Bridges is solid if a touch one-note as the drunk but effective bounty hunter she hires to go after her father’s killer; and Matt Damon is oddly cast but not bad as the Texas Ranger hunting the same criminal. On the surface this is a simple western, but with the Coens overseeing proceedings there’s a confidence and a tension that elevates the material and turns it into something that’s as gripping in its quiet moments as in its well-staged action sequences. As to be expected, the visuals are often quite stunning. A triumph only slightly let down by a lack of emotion in the denouement.

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Director: Eli Craig
Year: 2010
Score: 7.5/10

This comedy has a fantastic and original premise, and excellent performances from Alan Tudyk and especially Tyler Labine, but the execution is uneven and there aren’t quite enough laughs for my liking. Also, the villain is fairly two-dimensional and could have been much more interesting (and less irritating to watch). Still, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: Buried

Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Year: 2010
Score: 7/10

As far as high concept / gimmick movies go, this one’s pretty good. It milks considerable tension and drama out of the simple conceit of Ryan Reynolds being trapped in a box underground, and somehow it lasts a full hour and a half. You get the sense the scriptwriter just brainstormed every possible thing that someone trapped in a box could experience, then threw everything he’d thought of in; I think it would have been better had he left some (e.g. snake, fire, phone call with senile mother) out so as to streamline the plot and allow our disbelief some chance of remaining in suspense. Given the constraints of the concept, it’s very well directed. Reynolds is inoffensive. Good ending too.

Review: The Fighter

Director: David O. Russell
Year: 2010
Score: 8/10

Coincidentally I watched this right after Silver Linings Playbook, the movie David O. Russell made next. I liked it even more: great performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo; bold and lively direction by Russell; a strong sense of place and culture; overall, a poignant mix of tragedy and triumph. There aren’t many better boxing movies.

Review: Greenberg

Director: Noah Baumbach
Year: 2010
Score: 4.5/10

Disappointing mumblecore(ish) movie. Ben Stiller is the unpleasant title character and his performance is middling. Greta Gerwig is quite good as his main romantic interest; more than anyone else in the movie, she comes across as someone you might actually want to spend some time with. There’s a really good (both comedically and dramatically) party scene toward the end, but outside of that and Gerwig there’s not much to like in this.

Review: Jackass 3D

Director: Jeff Tremaine
Year: 2010
Score: 3/10

A little worse than Jackass Number Two, though to be honest they run together in my mind. They really seem to have run out of ideas by this point, and they’re looking noticeably older and worn out. As with Jackass Number Two, the climactic stunt – Steve-O being showered in shit inside a bungee-portaloo – was quite disappointing. Nonetheless, some parts still made me laugh a little. Disclaimer: I didn’t see it in 3D, and it’s entirely possible – but not very likely – that doing so would have lifted it to a perfect 10/10.