Tag Archives: The Town

Top 10 Movies of 2010

What would this blog be without a few year-end lists? My laptop is getting repaired right now, so some of the lists that I’d been working on are M.I.A., but I figured that I’d at least post a couple of basic ones, which I might elaborate on later. Here are my 10 favourite movies of the past year, keeping in mind that there are a LOT that I still haven’t seen.

Honorable Mention: True Grit

10. The Runaways

It may be a by-the-numbers rock biopic, but Floria Sigismondi’s story of Joan Jett’s teenage band has enough style, spirit, and heart to make it an unusually enjoyable watch. Though Dakota Fanning (playing petulant jailbait Cherie Currie) and Michael Shannon (as the band’s abusive manager) give the flashier performances, it is Kristen Stewart’s slow-boil performance as Jett that provides the most compelling human drama. She conveys the many facets of the introverted but driven Jett with sincerity, and sceptics of her work in the Twilight movies may be pleasantly surprised.

9. Cyrus

Directing team Jay and Mark Duplass have earned a reputation for creating high-concept films on a shoestring budget (their 2008 riff on horror movies, Baghead, is a prime example). So when they teamed up with a studio and hired big-name actors (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, and Marisa Tomei), some fans were understandably wary. But while the star-studded cast does distract a bit from the stark realism that they’re known for, there is still plenty of their documentary-style camera work and heavily improvised dialogue in Cyrus. Funny, and with more than a hint of melancholy, Cyrus is  a low-key, fun ride.

8. The Ghost Writer

With help from a solid cast, Roman Polanski created a moody, subtly stylish noir drama with The Ghost Writer. The film is slow, but that patience earns the film its whirlwind of an ending (no pun intended). Thanks to Polanski’s steady eye, even the film’s low-key action (for example, a low-speed car “chase” home) feels utterly exhilerating.

7. Toy Story 3

Viewers who grew up with the franchise (such as myself) may get swept up in the nostalgia, but the fact remains that Toy Story 3 is an incredibly well-constructed film for all ages. As cliche as it sounds, it is a film that will probably make you laugh and cry. And even if it may not be the best of the trilogy, Toy Story 3 has the biggest laughs, and a very, very well-deserved heartwrencher of an ending.

6. Inception

The long-brewing hype around Inception reached a fever pitch just before its release. And though it failed to meet some people’s unrealistic expectations, it also became something of a pop culture touchstone, which has to count for something. It was one of the few highlights in a grim summer movie season, and Inception brought whimsy and creativity to a genre that often seems catatonic. The cast is top notch (Cillian Murphy is the unsung MVP, if you ask me), and director Christopher Nolan brought his vision to life in a way that would only be possible with a summer blockbuster budget.

5. The Kids Are All Right

The “quirky indie comedy”  has been an annual staple of cinema for a while now (thanks, Little Miss Sunshine!), and this year was no exception. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore give bouyant performances as a middle-aged lesbian couple whose two children contact their charming but highly flawed sperm donor dad (played by the always fantastic Mark Ruffalo). It gets surprisingly dramatic as the film goes on, but The Kids Are All Right works because it avoids maudlin Important Moments and instead opts for realistic human drama.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I will never understand how films like this can tank at the box office. It has a great cast, a sharp script, some of the funniest moments I’ve seen all year, and a lightening-quick pace that would suit the ADD mentality of today. And those who did see Scott Pilgrim were treated to Edgar Wright’s inventive direction (chocked full of video game sights and sounds), delightfully bizarre pop culture references (including a Seinfeld-inspired segment), endlessly quotable dialogue (“Bread makes you fat?”), and a tour-de-force comedic performance from Kieran Culkin, of all people.

3. Fish Tank

I could probably write a thousand words about how much I love Michael Fassbender’s performance in Fish Tank. The physicality alone is remarkable; even the smallest gesture seems loaded with ambiguity and menace. Yet the great charm that Fassbender brings to the role makes the viewer want to have the same optimism towards him that the young protagonist, Mia, has. However, that risky, unspecified relationship between Mia and Fassbender’s Connor (her mom’s boyfriend) inevitably begins to unspool. And even though you kind of know where the film is going, that doesn’t stop the ride from being utterly compelling, in a vaguely horrifying way. Fish Tank blurs the line between ugly and beautiful (exemplified by director Andrea Arnold’s breathtaking ability to create stunning images out of England’s housing projects), good and bad, and optimism and hopelessness. I can’t get this film out of my mind.

2. The Town

And now, my award for the most enjoyable movie-going experience of the year (yes, even more so than Scott Pilgrim!). Considering that The Town is a film about bank robbers, there is surprisingly little action (though what is there is done impeccably). But everything in between is so equally compelling and exciting that is hardly matters. Between this and 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck is proving to be a tremendous directing talent. Here, he accomplished the difficult task of creating an edge-of-you-seat thriller that pleased crowds but also satisfied moviegoers with a desire for quality and depth. The Town is what movies are all about.

1. The Social Network

It may be at the top of everyone’s list this year, but that is for good reason. The Social Network is a smart, timely, fresh take on themes that have been explored since the dawn of story-telling (pride, friendship, betrayal, jelousy, etc.). This is to the credit of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose witty, twisty dialogue set against a Harvard backdrop somehow comes across as perfectly relatable and grounded. David Fincher also does an amazing job of taking a very contained story (which mostly consists of people talking in a room) and making it utterly cinematic. And let’s not forget Jesse Eisenberg, who is amazing as the seemingly inpenetrable but ultimately sympathetic Mark Zuckerberg. Throw in an unorthodox, rumbling score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and great supporting turns by Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer (and even Justin Timberlake is pretty good), and you’ve got a film that is both timely and timeless.


Fall Movie Preview: September

September 3

After the void that was this year’s summer movie season, we’re jumping right back into things with a few interesting releases. The American (September 1), Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to 2007’s Control, stars George Clooney as an assassin on the run. The “one last job” plotline is so hackneyed at this point, but if there are two people who can make a stylish thriller, it’s probably Corbijn and Clooney. Also in wide release is the romantic comedy Going the Distance, starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, which got bumped back from late August. Robert Rodriguez’ highly anticipated (for reasons unknown to me) Machete also hits theatres.

In limited release, The Winning Season stars Sam Rockwell and Emma Roberts, and it seems to be a full-length riff on the basketball coach storyline from director James C. Strouse’s previous writing effort, Lonesome Jim. In foreign fare, director Zhang Yimou gives us his update on Blood Simple with A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.

September 10

The Resident Evil franchise barrels on with the latest release, Resident Evil: Afterlife, while comedic dream team Will Farrell and Adam McKay bring us their latest production, The Virginity Hit.

In limited release is the much-buzzed-about Joaquin Phoenix documentary (?), I’m Still Here, which likely will answer very few of our questions about Phoenix’s recent antics. We’ll also get a couple of top-notch ensemble casts with Lovely, Still (starring Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, and Adam Scott), and The Romantics (starring Anna Paquin, Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, Adam Brody, Malin Ackerman, Elijah Wood, and Diana Agron. How’s that for a sickeningly attractive cast? Well, the movie itself looks equally sticky and insufferable).

September 17

This week, we’ll see a slew of interesting, completely disparate releases. Alpha and Omega, the 3D animated children’s film brings us a voice cast of Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Danny Glover, and the late Dennis Hopper. Devil brings an M. Night Shyamalan story to life (wait, isn’t the story usually the weak point of every Shyamalan-written film?) and stars the charming Chris Messsina. Easy A is a welcome, promising showcase piece for up-and-comer Emma Stone and co-stars Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Hayden Church, and Lisa Kudrow. We’ll also see two major actors take a seat in front of and behind the camera, with Ben Affleck’s The Town (his directorial follow-up to Gone Baby Gone), and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jack Goes Boating (his directorial debut, in limited release) hitting theatres.

Never Let Me Go (September 15), an adaptation of the acclaimed Kazuo Ishiguro novel, offers a promising cast, with Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, and Keira Knightley all taking on the sci-fi-twinged tale. Also in limited release is the Sundance hit, Catfish, which got audiences buzzing about its low budget, supposedly non-fictional take on internet love gone awry.

September 24

Though last year’s Whatever Works caused some movie-goers to give up on him entirely, Woody Allen is back with a new comedy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (September 22)(starring Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Bandera, and Freida Pinto). And speaking of big-name directors, Oliver Stone returns with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Michael Douglas reprises his iconic role of Gordon Gekko, and Shia LaBoeuf, Carey Mulligan, and Josh Brolin hope to add their own charms to the franchise. On his time off between Watchmen and Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder made Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, a children’s film about owls, and it also hits theatres this week, as does You Again, a rom-com starring Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Sigourney Weaver.

In limited release, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) bring us their adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which could provide Zach Galifianakis’ meatiest role to date. Ryan Reynolds also takes a turn for the serious with Buried, a one-man thriller about a soldier buried alive in a coffin. As well, we’ll get to see James Franco in his first of two headlining projects this fall, playing poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl. Also finally getting a North American theatrical release is the trippy French film, Enter the Void, which has been playing on the festival circuit for over a year.

My 10 Most Anticipated Movies for the Rest of 2010

1. The Social Network (October 1)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones

The trailer for this extremely topical film is perhaps the most beloved trailer since Where the Wild Things Are, and that has only helped to build my excitement for David Fincher’s latest project. I’m in love with The Social Network‘s cast, and it looks like a far weightier project than most people had initially thought. The subject matter is fascinating, and it’s refreshing to see a film tackle a current phenomenon seemingly without self-congratulation or premature nostalgia.

2. Somewhere (December 22)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning

Somewhere looks to have a lot of similarities to Coppola’s directorial debut, Lost in Translation, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s hardly a negative. Also offering a wonderful trailer, Somewhere looks woozy and gorgeously shot. I’m already in love with the father/daughter pairing of Elle Fanning and Stephen Dorff.

3. Blue Valentine (December 31)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel

It’s gotten raves out of Sundance and Cannes, and this drama starring two of today’s best young actors sounds harrowing. I’m excited for Ryan Gosling’s return to the big screen, and Michelle Williams is an actress that impresses me more with each project. Second Oscar nominations for the both of them?

4. Black Swan (December 1)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

The freaky trailer (have fun getting that final image out of your mind) for this movie has helped to build interest in director Darren Aronofsky’s latest project. It’s great to see Portman getting a meaty leading role, and the film looks wholly original. I think that any concerns about Aronofsky going soft can safely be put to rest.

5. The King’s Speech (December 24)

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall

Colin Firth earned heaps of goodwill with A Single Man, and it doesn’t look like he’s putting it to waste at all. Details about this royal biopic are sparse, but with Firth in the lead and a great supporting cast to boot, I can’t help but be very excited.

6. It’s Kind of a Funny Story (September 24)

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Cast: Kier Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakis

I loved the book, and the trailer for the film adaptation seemed surprisingly similar to how I imagined it would look. Directors Boden and Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar) are clearly taking a large step forward in terms of accessibility (though hopefully they’re not too far the other way), and I’m excited to see what they’ll do with this darkly comedic tale. Galifianakis’ performance also looks surprisingly nuanced and touching.

7. Never Let Me Go (September 15)

Director: Mark Romanek

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Sally Hawkins

Never Let Me Go seems to be wavering on the edge of Oscar-bait-prestige-project, but it looks beautiful. Once again, it offers a fantastic cast (you go, Andrew Garfield!). I’m in the middle of the book currently, and I’m intrigued to see how it will all play out on screen.

8. The Town (September 17)

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively

The formulaic trailer made me doubt my optimism, but then I remembered how the trailer for Gone Baby Gone did that film a complete disservice. Affleck has proven to be a very capable director, and the premise of this film seems strong. I’m also really excited to see Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm work their magic.

9. 127 Hours (November 5)

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

The concept for a movie about a trapped mountain climber didn’t seem especially interesting or fresh to me, but early buzz about this Boyle-directed project has apparently been very strong. James Franco is proving to be quite the renaissance man, and this could be just the meaty role that he needs to elevate his acting even further.

10. Howl (September 24)

Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Cast: James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn, Aaron Tveit

The cast is to die for, and even though this Allen Ginsberg biopic received somewhat mixed reviews out of Sundance, its crisp trailer caught my eye. It has a great visual style, and seems to strive to truly capture the beat poetry movement. Between this and 127 Hours, it could be a huge breakout year for Franco.

Other Upcoming Releases of Interest:

Brighton Rock, Rabbit Hole, Love and Other Drugs, Buried, Nowhere Boy, The Fighter, What’s Wrong With Virginia?, The American

Trailer Alert: The Town

It’s been a crazy couple of days for movie trailers, giving us the first look at five of my most anticipated films of the year (I didn’t get a chance to talk about the Howl trailer, but it certainly looks intriguing). Now we’re getting a glimpse at Ben Affleck’s directorial follow-up to 2007’s Gone Baby Gone (a film that I loved), entitled The Town.

It looks quite similiar to Gone Baby Gone, with the mean streets of Boston of full display. Rebecca Hall is a fantastic actress and looks great here, but I’m not sure if I’m buying Blake Lively as the tough gal from the wrong side of the tracks (and she’ll have a hell of a time living up to Amy Ryan’s similar-looking performance). It’s nice to see Jon Hamm stepping out of the 60’s, though.

Like the trailer for Gone Baby Gone, this paints The Town as a very conventional crime film, but I’m hoping (as was the case with Gone Baby Gone) that this trailer simply isn’t doing the film justice. If we can get some of the moral introspection and fine acting that we got in Affleck’s previous work, The Town could turn out to be one of the best films of the year.

10 2010 Movies I’m Excited For

January may not have been a stellar month for theatre releases, but it looks as though things will inevitably be picking up over the next few months. Of course, many new favourites will emerge as the year progresses, but based on what I know of them, here are ten films (plus a whole bunch of honourable mentions…yes, I’m cheating) slated for a 2010 release that I’m excited to see. It’s based mainly on actors and directors that I like. Click on the titles to see trailers, where possible.

1. Inception

Release Date: July 16, 2010

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy

The strength of the cast is undeniable, and fresh off the massive success of The Dark Knight, there’s no way that Christopher Nolan’s upcoming thriller won’t be a huge hit. The filmmakers are being tight-lipped with plot details, but the tagline (“Your mind is the scene of the crime”) sounds pretty intriguing. I’m just hoping it can live up to expectations.

2. Somewhere

Release Date: TBA

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Benecio Del Toro, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan

I recently saw Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation for the first time, and it blew me away. Her next project, about an actor surprised by a visit from his daughter, has Benecio Del Toro (one of my favourite actors) starring, as well as Elle Fanning, who though I kind of hate to admit it, is a fantastic young actress. And the ten year old girl in me is a little bit excited that, according to the film’s IMDB page, Robert Schwartzman (who I had a huge crush on in The Princess Diaries) will be making his first acting appearance in almost 10 years.

3. The Town

Release Date: September 10, 2010

Director: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper, Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner

I didn’t think that I’d ever be excited by anything to do with Ben Affleck, but after his incredibly impressive directorial effort in 2007, Gone Baby Gone, I’m excited for his follow-up. The film centers on the after effects a bank hold-up, and the feeling that the thief develops for one of the bank managers involved. I’m hoping to see more of the terse, stylish fare that he gave us with Gone Baby Gone. I’d rather see Casey Affleck onscreen than big brother Ben, but with a fabulous supporting cast, it looks very promising.

4. Blue Valentine

Release Date: TBA

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

I’m on board with anything that Ryan Gosling’s involved with, and while I didn’t like Wendy and Lucy as much as I wanted to, Michelle Williams was pretty fantastic in it. It got solid reviews at Sundance, and it’s been picked up by The Weinstein Company for distribution. Is it too early to predict that Gosling and Williams will each picking up their second Oscar nominations a year from now?

5. Dinner for Schmucks

Release Date: July 23, 2010

Director: Jay Roach

Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jermaine Clement, Bruce Greenwood

Though it has a strange concept (men compete for who can bring the lousiest guest to a dinner party), but it sounds like a potentially funny one. The main draw for me is leads Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis. They might just be the three funniest guys working. Director Roach helmed the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises, and while his films may not be especially subtle, they are pretty funny.

6. The Social Network

Release Date: October 15, 2010

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, Justin Timberlake

David Fincher is always innovative, so somehow it’s not terribly surprising that his next project will revolve around the creation of the popular social networking site, Facebook. It has an interesting young cast, but it’s hard to say whether audiences will want to see a movie about something that’s already so present in our everyday lives. Because of its director, I’m more than willing to give it a shot.

7. Cemetery Junction

Release Date: April 7, 2010 (UK), TBA in North America

Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Ricky Gervais, Tom Hughes, Christian Cooke, Matthew Goode

When I first heard about this film, I imagined it to be vastly different from what the recently-released trailer showed us. With Ricky Gervais attached, I was expected something more along the lines of Ghost Town or The Invention of Lying, for obvious reasons. And while I enjoyed both of those films reasonably, this coming-of-age tale looks sweet, and far more cinematic. I’m a sucker for these kinds of movies (Stand By Me and Almost Famous are two of my all-times favourite films), and this one looks great.

8. Black Swan

Release Date: TBA

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

Darren Aronofsky’s highly-anticipated follow up to 2008’s The Wrestler has made waves already for its reported girl-on-girl scenes, but while his films are usually provocative, his sense of artistry is like none other. This thriller about competitive ballerinas has an inspired cast (it’ll be interesting to see how Kunis fares in a major dramatic role), and I’m excited to to see where Aronofsky’s going next.

9. Due Date

Release Date: November 5, 2010

Director: Todd Phillips

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, Alan Arkin

After the massive success of The Hangover last year, director Todd Phillips is already back with a new comedy. IMDB tells me that it’s about “A high-strung father-to-be [who’s] forced to hitch a ride with a college slacker on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time”. It kind of sounds like The Hangover, except with babies instead of weddings. But with Downey and Galifianakis as the leads (I think you can guess who plays which part) I’m betting it’s going to be pretty funny. Seriously, just look at that picture.

10. Shutter Island

Release Date: February 19, 2010

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer

Based on a Dennis Lehane novel (who also penned the source material for Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone), this movie about a U.S. Marshal (DiCaprio) investigating a mental hospital looks genuinely freaky from the trailers. The Scorsese/DiCaprio pairing has worked three times before (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed), so why mess with it? Plus, it has Mark Ruffalo, which is always a bonus.

Other Films of Interest:

  • I’m very interested to see what else actor Sam Riley (Control) can do, and we’ll all get to see when Brighton Rock gets released this fall
  • British up-and-comer Aaron Johnson has some big roles coming up, first playing a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy (which was already released in the UK, and got him a Best Actor British Independent Film Award nom), and leading a cast of unlikely superheroes in Kick-Ass.
  • It looks like a good year for comedies. As well as the ones mentioned above, Date Night
    (starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell), Greenberg (Ben Stiller), and Cryus (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill) all look quite promising from their trailers. And David Gordon Green will give us his comedic follow-up to Pineapple Express with another James Franco stoner flick, Your Highness.
  • As for the more serious fare, The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale, looks like a possible Oscar contender. Rabbit Hole may finally get Aaron Eckhart some of the attention that he deserves as a dramatic actor, with help from co-star Nicole Kidman. And since Up in the Air converted me to a Clooney fan, I’m now excited for The American, which is also Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to his wonderful director debut, Control. Though I don’t know much about it, Terrence Malick’s (The Thin Red Line, The New World) upcoming film, The Tree of Life, sounds very interesting.
  • The Killer Inside Me (starring Casey Affleck in his first role since 2007) made waves at Sundance for its brutal depiction of violence against women, but it sounds intriguing. Other promising Sundance films include Jack Goes Boating (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan), Frozen (the trailer alone has scared me off of chairlifts forever), Buried (Ryan Reynolds), and The Kids Are Alright (featuring one of my favourite teen actors, Josh Hutcherson. And Mark Ruffalo!)
  • And what year would be complete without some bona fide blockbusters? Hopefully Iron Man 2 and Toy Story 3 will live up to their predecessors. I’m not as excited for Alice in Wonderland as most seem to be, but it still looks interesting. With a great cast, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan) could be pretty good. And since their pairing worked so well for the Bourne series Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have teamed up for another exciting-looking action picture, Green Zone.