Mar 15 2010

Most Anticipated of Summer 2010

Yes, that is Michael Cera with a flaming katana.

Summer is almost upon us, and I can’t help but admit this is my favorite time of year for movies.  I dig me a well made blockbuster.  So, what do we have to look forward to?  Well, quite a bit actually.  I took a look, starting with April and ending in August, to see what’s coming down the pipe and found at least fifteen or twenty movies that I’ll probably be seeing.  But there’s five HUGE movies that for me are completely unmissable.  See them after the jump.

5.Toy Story 3

Toy Story, for me, is the film that started it all.  I’d already been introduced to Pixar through my dad, when he brought home a VHS of their short films after working on the first Toy Story, long before the general public had even heard of Pixar.  Once it came out, it installed what is now a lifelong love of Pixar films.  They’ve never done me wrong, even their lesser films like A Bug’s Life and Cars have been very enjoyable and well executed for me, so I have no doubt they’ll do right by this one, especially with all the incredible characters involved.  It may not have placed better, simply because I prefer seeing completely original ideas from Pixar, and any number higher than 2 after a title makes me wary.

4. Iron Man 2

Iron Man was almost the best superhero movie ever, if it wasn’t for that pesky The Dark Knight stealing its thunder.  No matter, the pattern with superhero movies is you’ve got to set up the world, the tone, and the origin in the first film, and then you do everything better in the second.  So I’m psyched to see if Favreau can actually top the sheer fun of the first film.  Iron Man is pure entertainment, and this looks no different.  Plus, adding a team-up with War Machine, more Nick Fury, Sam Rockwell, the presence of the ever-luscious Scarlett Johanssen, and you’ve got yourself a fanboy’s wet dream.  Once again, slightly hurt by the fact that it’s a sequel, though.

3. Kick-Ass

I’ve read the comic as it came out over the past year (thank goodness the final issue came out be).  It wasn’t exactly the best comic I’ve read, not even close, but it’s over the top action will look great on screen with authentic dynamic moving energy.  Plus the fact that they’re not censoring the action, or the language, or Hit-Girl’s age seems to be a good sign.  From what I heard, they’re not glued to the page, which is also for the best with this film.  And, while this is an adaptation, it’s a new property to the screen, which makes it feel more fresh.  Most of all, though, many critics who’s opinion I trust have seen this movie, and the buzz is huge!

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This, on the other hand, IS one of the most enjoyable comic books I’ve ever read.  AND it’s one of the most original and unique things I’ve seen in any medium.  There are things in the book I wasn’t expecting at all, and a mentality and story voice that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Once again, it’s something that if fully embodied will work great on screen.  But this story also has a lot of heart, and when it comes down to it, it’s about interpersonal relationships.  And on top of that, one of my favorite directors/writers today, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced) is taking it on.  People who have seen this give it incredible praise, and some, like Jason Reitman, say it’s the first movie to fully capture the video game generation in tone.  I can’t wait.

1. Inception

Tell me Christopher Nolan is making a movie, and I will be there.  The man has never missed.  Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and of course, The Dark Knight are all fantastic, and some rank amongst my very favorite movies ever.  So, that’s all I really need to know.  But tell me that the movie is related to mind games/puzzles and reality bending and it gets me even more excited.  Throw in a cast of some of my favorite actors (DiCaprio, Gorden-Levitt, Page, Freeman, and many more) and some Matrix-like visuals and you have what is essentially guaranteed to be my favorite movie of the year.  This blows everything else out of the water, even with stiff competition.

Honorable Mentions: Clash of the Titans, Robin Hood, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Predators, Get Him to the Greek

The purpose of this article is simply to point out the ten best movies of the year so far. I started with January and went through the end of August and looked at every movie I’d seen so far, and let me tell you, I have seen a lot of movies this year. In fact the only movie I truly regret missing so far is The Hurt Locker, so don’t expect to see it on this list. I’m going to categorize this top ten as being defined by being my “favorites”. A lot of things can contribute to this, and I’ll do my best to briefly explain each choice, but I think you’ll find that it’s a combination of pure enjoyment, relatability, and undoubtable quality. You may remember Benn’s tirade against the current state of the summer blockbuster, and you might be able to think of this as a counter to that, because while not all of the movies that are about to be mentioned were “blockbusters,” most of them were part of this summers’ film slate, and were completely enjoyable. Some even pushed the envelope of filmmaking just a little. Anyway without further ado, I present to you in approximate and completely subjective order descending from tenth to first favorite film, my top ten favorite films of the first “half” of 2009.

10. Watchmen

I realize that to truly appreciate this movie, you have to have seen the book, but what a companion piece it is. The original is such an excellently told story, and it’s such a marvel to see it up there on the silver screen. Zack Snider took a lot of risks in maintaining the purity of the book, and it seems as if they may not have paid off for him, but for the Watchmen fan, this is just about as good as we could possibly hope for. Basically this is appreciation for seeing a favorite story be brought to screen in a respectable way.

9. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

As with all the Harry Potter films, it has to cut out a lot, including a climactic battle, to fit it all in. Still, there’s a lot to like here. The cinematography is gorgeous, and has a unique look that the other films don’t have. Also, I can’t believe how lucky they got with what were once child actors. They have really grown up into their roles and give some great performances, as do their adult counterparts. The big surprise here though is the excellent comedy and relationship moments, it’s almost like watching a really good high school movie.

8. Moon

This is one of those movies that’s best not to talk about too much. Just go see it and be surprised. But I can tell you this, it has an amazing one man show performance by Sam Rockwell, and it does incredible things with its $5 million dollar budget. The script is incredibly compelling as well, considering it’s enclosed nature.

7. Drag Me to Hell

If you’ve ever seen any of the Evil Dead (or Army of Darkness) films, you’ll understand this movie perfectly. It comes from the same writer/director, Sam Raimi, and instills the same sort of manic horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s almost more comedy than horror, and plays with the tropes of the genre while still finding fresh ways to really creep you out. This is just a ton of fun.

6. Up

What can I say, I’m a sucker for Pixar. I’m almost always teary by the end of a Pixar film, (and jealousy of their accomplishment usually has something to do with it) but rarely am I teary in the first five minutes. Up grabs you and pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. It has many emotionally touching moments, and some great comedy as well. Pixar is just unstoppable for me.

5. District 9

It’s so refreshing to see a completely original concept, particularly within the sci-fi genre. This film accomplishes so many different things. It’s a great video-game style action movie, really unlike any that has been accomplished before. And it’s simultaneously a great allegory for racial relations in South Africa (or anywhere). It’s great to see that a summer blockbuster can mean something. Also, considering the budgets of some of the other blockbusters out there, the fact that this movie was made for $30 million is simply unbelievable.

4. The Brothers Bloom

I love me a good con movie, I love me a good comedy, and I love me some good genre bending. This accomplishes all three, and it does it with flourish and style. Not only does Rian Johnson take a little from some of his (and my) favorite films, but he adds some brilliant flairs of his own and brings it together in a surprisingly unified palette. This is a ton of fun to watch, it’s clever, it’s a little meta-fictional (which I’m also a sucker for), and it even brings it home with some touching emotional beats. This also my favorite musical score of the year. Highly recommended on all accounts. Benn and I reviewed it in depth in our Film Duel column.

3. (500) Days of Summer

This movie is so relatable it’s not even funny. I may not have lived exactly this, but it’s so universal that it strikes home anyway. And yet it feels specific and genuine at the same time. It’s a really witty and fresh script as well. Both actors are great, and have good chemistry. And there’s Zooey Deschanel, who I’ve had an unabashed crush on ever since I saw Mumford and Eulogy, two of her earliest films. Sadly she just got married to one of my favorite musicians, Ben Gibbard, so I’ll have to begin to mentally let her go. There’s a great mix of indie music too, and some wonderful directorial stylistic flairs.

2. Inglourious Basterds

This is simply magnificent. Never have I seen such a great experiment in tension. Hitchcock used to say that surprise is having two people talking at a table about the weather, and then a bomb under the table blows up, tension is showing the audience the bomb under the table, and then having two people talk about the weather. Quentin Tarantino clearly knows this, and experiments with both concepts. He knows how to pull back the rubber band until its ready to snap and then let all hell break loose. This movie shows off Tarantino’s mastery of dialogue and style, and is certainly one of his best.

1. Star Trek

This was simply the most fun I had all summer. Films can be big summer popcorn flicks and still be great films at the same time. This script is near perfect for me, there’s conflict at every turn, while simultaneously building up character. The acting is dead on, and I would die to have a television show with these actors as these characters. The cinematography is fresh and appealing, and the directing is exciting and thoughtful at once. I can’t wait to have this on blu-ray so I can watch it for my third and fourth time.

Honorable Metions:

The Hangover, I Love You, Man, and Coraline

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