2 July 2010

The Halftime report - 2010 so far.

With another undoubtedly underwhelming summer season now well under way and with 2010firmly into its seventh month; it seems an appropriate time to analyse the cinematic year so far. 2010 has boasted a few interesting motion pictures , but the first six months of UK releases have for my money only yielded two truly great films. I’ve missed a few major movies over the last few months (“Up in the Air”, the critically maligned wave of Amanda Seyfried romances and the yet unopened “Toy Story 3”) but I’ve managed to see some 30+ titles that qualify for consideration in my half time top and bottom fives. I’m largely using the UK release calendar as the basis for movies being considered, albeit there is one major title that hasn’t been granted a release on British and Irish shores yet, and which has been rushed direct to disc in the USA.

So to speed this process up a bit.....here’s my bottom 5 of 2010 so far:

5. “Date Night” – It all looked so good on paper. Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a married couple. Hell yeah. A supporting cast that features Mila Kunis, James Franco, Mark Wahlberg and Kristen Wiig. Sounds awesome. A trailer that was actually kind of funny, and which suggested the film wasn’t going to be a completely clich├ęd action comedy. Always a plus. Shawn Levy behind the camera......oh wait, that actually sucks. Levy was the only blemish I could see on the whole project prior to release, but ultimately it proved a tough stain to remove. Levy’s insipid and ham-fisted direction renders the film a dud, something that isn’t helped by the fact most everyone else involved is coasting. It was a tough call between “Date Night” and “Robin Hood” for this spot, but on the basis of raw ineptitude and laziness, “Date Night” is the bigger loser. – D

4. “Leap Year” – Unlike “Date Night” I had no preconceptions that “Leap Year” might be in the least bit worthwhile, and I was correct in making such drastic assumptions. Despite the presence of likable actors such as Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, the film is an unfunny and painfully generic road trip feature, with a twee Irish atmosphere liable to make most viewers barf. Even Matthew Goode (the male romantic lead) came out and damned it as rubbish when it was released back in February. - D

3. “Tooth Fairy” – I really want to like Dwayne Johnson, but he doesn’t make it easy. The former wrestler has a pleasant charm and a decent command of comedy, but he consistently picks ghastly scripts to star in. “Tooth Fairy” is simply a parade of corny jokes, cloying sentimentality and cheap filmmaking rolled into one big undesirable package. Johnson looks fairly sedate throughout the entire event, even he seems aware that this children’s film is a complete clunker. The only real bright spot is British comedian Stephen Merchant in a small role, who mugs with enthusiasm and occasional success. Still, it’s definitely to be avoided. – D

2. “Edge of Darkness” – A thriller not thrilling is cardinal sin, and a mystery easily solved is another. Mel Gibson makes a wooden return to leading man duties with this wince inducing travesty, from about the 15 minute mark the film begins to bore, and it never picks up over its overstretched duration. The action is workmanlike at best and Mad Mel appears to be sleepwalking. Uninspired box-office returns speak volumes on this one. – D

1. “The 41-year old Virgin who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and felt Superbad about It” – Yes this is a real film; it was released on DVD in the states only a few weeks ago. A spoof movie taking aim at the Apatow School of comedy, this is an embarrassing motion picture; and possibly one of the worst films I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through. It’s assembled so poorly and written so badly that one really has to see it in order to believe. I didn’t laugh once and afterwards required a long and lengthy shower in order to purge its vile aroma from my body. This thing is so awful it’s actually gross. – F

Whoooo.....that’s a seriously shitty roster of movies. Well now onto greener pastures as I showcase my favourite five films of 2010 so far:

5. “Cemetery Junction” – A real charmer of a flick, which due to mediocre UK box-office showings will be sent straight to DVD in the USA. That’s a pity. Directed with warmth and intelligence by Stephen Mechant and Ricky Gervais, “Cemetery Junction” is a subtle, funny and wonderfully acted coming of age tale, handled in an uncharacteristically stylish way for a British production. It’s a low key movie, and maybe not on a par with Gervais and Merchant’s best work, but I haven’t seen a more emotionally appealing film all year. - B+

4. “The Lovely Bones” – A recipient of mixed reviews and very little actual awards consideration, many consider “The Lovely Bones” to be Peter Jackson’s first proper folly. I don’t. Adapted faithfully from Alice Sebold’s bestseller of the same name, Jackson handles a tough story competently, and whilst there are flaws; it’s overall a rewarding and rich movie going experience. The film boasts top notch acting from Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan and Mark Wahlberg, and manages to support its lengthy 133 minute runtime. Touching and with a powerful emotional core, “The Lovely Bones” is hopefully a film that history will treat in a more kindly fashion than contemporary audiences and critics. – B+

3. “Shutter Island” – Martin Scorsese is a master; that much has been clear for over 20 years. “Shutter Island” marks a change of pace for the auteur, adapting a pulpy novel whilst referencing many of the chillers that influenced him as a director. It’s not perfect, but Leonardo DiCpario is predictably solid in the leading role, and visually it’s a barnstorming success. The narrative is compelling and filled with brilliantly creepy nuances, and whilst the final revelation isn’t a huge surprise; the twists and turns required to get there offer huge amounts of enjoyment. Fans of film owe it to themselves to check it out. – B+

2. “The Road” – An excellent translation of Cormac McCarthy’s bleak apocalyptic novel, “The Road” is a heartbreaking and relentlessly engaging drama, spiced up with some disturbingly graphic touches. Viggo Mortensen deserved Oscar consideration for his sublime leading performance, and whilst young Kodi Smit McPhee isn’t exactly a knockout as his son, the movie as a whole most certainly is. A contender for one of the best post-apocalyptic feature films ever made, truly fantastic. – A-

1. “Kick-Ass” – The best thing I’ve seen since “Inglourious Basterds”, “Kick-Ass” is an awe inspiringly fun watch. Adapted from a comic book (I haven’t read it), “Kick-Ass” is a cult film in the making, an instant classic of geek cinema. Its story involving ordinary folks becoming superheroes is frighteningly compelling and entertaining, with the action and comedy elements being expertly handled by British helmer Matthew Vaughn. The movie certainly has depth, but its roller coaster ride approach renders it far better than any blockbuster I’ve seen in a while, and some of the characters (namely Hit Girl) are simply unforgettable. It’s hard to see anything on the immediate horizon (“Inception” and “Toy Story 3” excluded) that could knock this from the perch of being 2010’s finest cinematic offering. – A

So there you have it, 2010 thus far in a nutshell. Personally I don’t think it’s been too bad a year so far. For fairness sake I will now list every film that was in consideration for these lists: “The Road”, “Daybreakers”, “Edge of Darkness”, “Youth in Revolt”, “The Wolfman”, “Everybody’s Fine”, “The Lovely Bones”, “Did You Hear about the Morgans?”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “I Love You Phillip Morris”, “Armored”, “Kick-Ass”, “Clash of the Titans”, “Shutter Island”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Cemetery Junction”, “Tooth Fairy”, “Date Night”, “Iron Man 2”, “Leap Year”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Robin Hood”, “The 41 Year Old Virgin who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and felt Superbad About It”, “The Book of Eli”, “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”, “Invictus”, “From Paris with Love”, “She’s Out of my League”, “Solomon Kane”, “MacGruber” and “Get Him to the Greek” (Total: 31)

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