January 2, 2011

2010 Year in Review: 5 Disappointments and 5 Surprises

The first stop on my journey back through the movies of 2010 is not with the best or the worst. I figured it would be better to split the difference and take a look at a few of the surprises and disappointments that the year delivered. None of the movies below were good enough or bad enough to appear on either of those lists, but for one reason or another either surprised or disappointed (duh), yours truly. Each list will be alphabetical and will not play favorites. Also, I am going a more simplistic route with brief comments on each.

Let's start this in a positive fashion.

5 Surprises of 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine. Seriously, who figured this high concept comedy would be as funny and successful as it is? It is thin on plot and if you over think it you are sure to ruin it. The best way to approach it is to just accept it and laugh. This is a movie that is just flat out funny and wacky, defying all expectations.

How to Train Your Dragon. Here is a movie whose trailers do the movie a disservice in that they almost enticed me to skip it. I am so glad that I didn't. This proved to be an absolutely enjoyable movie that has plenty of heart and action and looked great in 3D. It is a movie that you would be best served to skip the trailers, or ignore them if you have already seen them.

The Karate Kid. This is a movie that I actively wanted to dislike, despise even. It initially struck me as a Smith family vanity project and threatened to walk over one of the seminal movies of my childhood. The original Karate Kid is such a part of pop culture that I was afraid of what it may become. I needn't have worried so much. This new one follows the story beat for beat and proves to be its own movie and is highly entertaining and just all around very good. Talk about a surprise!

MacGruber. Another movie I had no intention of seeing that I somehow did see, and guess what? It was very funny. It is over the top, vulgar, crass, goofy, and insanely stupid. There really are no redeeming values contained within its frames. The truth of the matter is, as stupid as it is, it works. Everyone plays it straight, no one gives up the fact they are in a goofball action/comedy. You have to see it to believe it and I truly think you should see it.

Splice. I never did review this movie and I really need to go back and revisit it. Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube), this science fiction/horror movie plays like an updated take on the Frankenstein story, perhaps with a little bit of Species tossed in for good measure. Yes, it is flawed, but it is also daring, unconventional, and not what you expect. It has an intelligence that is definitely welcome on the big screen.

All right, that wraps up the surprises, now to take it down a notch:

5 Disappointments for 2010

Alice in Wonderland. I really wanted to like this and on some levels, I think I do. The problem is that I expect more from Tim Burton. It was just a couple of years ago that he topped my best of list with Sweeney Todd. This would seem like the perfect material for him. I wonder where it went wrong? There are plenty of great visuals but it never comes together as a whole.

Clash of the Titans. This failed to come together, from the post-converted 3D to a screenplay lacking in heart, and performances that fail to inspire come together in a fantasy adventure that does not excite the screen. Sure, the potential was there, but somewhere along the way the project went into the rough and could not find its way back.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.  I know I am going to be in the minority on this, but this outing failed to work for me. It has been an amazing ride watching these actors grow up with the characters and by and large the series has had a steady level of quality. I just got the impression that they forgot how to write for them now that the adults weren't around. Bad dialogue abounds and it felt like there was not enough story for the length. I hope the finally redeems it for me as I do enjoy the series.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The action is slick and well executed and the movie as a whole looks good. The problem is that it had the potential to be a great adventure film and it felt more like the video game upon which it is based. The characters lacked heart and I could care less about their adventure.

Robin Hood. Great action permeates this gritty take on the classic character. The problem is that it was not so much Robin Hood as it was the Crusades edition of Gladiator. I know they were looking at how the character came about before he was an outlaw, but there was no sense of adventure or fun that I have come to associate with the character. This felt flat and did not deliver on the title. I would have rather spent my time with the Errol Flynn film.

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