Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 Oscar Nominations Official Report


Academy Awards? Who loves ‘em? What’s that you say? Not reflective of either the state of cinema or of the general public’s taste? It's a broken system? Who wins has more to do with hype then actual quality? The Academy Awards is a masturbatory ceremony of Hollywood bigwigs patting each other on the back?

Fuck you. That’s right, fuck all of you. I LIKE the Academy Awards. I recognize all of its flaws and when they screws up, boy howdy do they screw up. But I’m too much of an obsessive compulsive movie slut not to obsess over them. The guessing game is too much fun. The glitz, the glamor, it’s all great amusement. When compared to the Golden Globes, the Oscars still mean a lot more then cynics are willing to acknowledge.

Honestly, the saddest thing about the Oscar, more then anything else, are their desperate attempts to stay hip in the face of today’s completely ambivalent youth audience and constantly flagging ratings. This year’s hosts, Anne Hathaway and James “James Franco” Franco, were apparently chosen out of a hat completely at random. I’m eagerly looking forward to watching these two non-host hosts awkwardly stumble through a three hour ceremony. Seriously Academy, Stephen Colbert, Joel McCale or Tina Fey’s name didn’t even blip across your radar?

Anyway, the nominations have been officially announced. This year, out of the 40 films nominated in the major categories, I’ve seen 15, including 7 of the 10 best picture nods. That’s actually a pretty good margarine considering how far out of my interest the Oscars picks usually are. So enough yammering, here’s my OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS!
BEST PICTURE:

I’m happy “Winter’s Bone” managed a best picture nomination. I suppose, with ten slots to fill, its chances were good but, considering its independent origins, lack of star power, and the Academy’s short memory-span, I was nervous it wouldn’t happen at all.

What surprised me was the lack of a nomination for “Blue Valentine.” I expected the Weinsteins to push it like a motherfucker but I guess they figured “The King’s Speech” was a safer bet. (It is.) The NC-17 sex probably scared the Academy. “The Fighter” took its slot. That movie has being getting more praise for its supporting performance then for its actual content but clearly the Academy loves an underdog story, doubly so if boxing is involved.

The race for Best Picture comes down to two movies: “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech.” And honestly it could go either way. The Academy’s love for stodgy old costume dramas is well-documented. Once upon a time, the historical period piece was always a sure bet. However, in the last decade, they've shown a surprising willingness to go with more modern, character oriented films. Wither this has to do with quality or the aforementioned desperation, I can’t say. Both of these represent either side of that spectrum perfectly. (It would be harder to make a film more modern then one about Facebook. Unless it was about an iPhone 4’s adventures in Twittering. That would be pretty modern.) “The King’s Speech” is probably the surer bet but my gut is going with “The Social Network,” simply because not only is it clearly one of the most critically beloved films of the year, but has also been making away with best picture awards like some sort of best picture award bandit.

The rest of the noms provide little competition. Despite “Inception,” “Winter’s Bone,” and “Toy Story 3” all being the best films of the year, they won’t win. “Black Swan” is too dark and surreal. “127 Hours,” despite good reviews, doesn’t have nearly enough hype behind it. “The Kids Are All Right’ is ostensibly a comedy, so it won’t win either.

Official Prediction: “The Social Network”
BEST ACTOR:

The films battling for best picture are also battling for best actor. Colin Firth is a beloved veteran, whose non-threatening Britishness has made him a favorite. Jesse Eisenberg is a relative newcomer who, until his star-making turn as Mark Zuckerberg, was most widely regarded as “The poor man’s Michael Cera.” (If things keep going the way they are, Michael Cera might soon be the poor man’s Michael Cera…) The hype machine is pumping heavily for both. I think Eisenberg gave the better performance. However, much like high school girls, the Academy tends the favor the more experienced, better looking, older man. If Firth wins Best Actor, the chance of “The King Speech” winning the top prize increases and vice-versa.

The Academy has the rare opportunity this year of one of its hosts also being nominated in a top tier category. How James Franco translated from pop culture punch line to Oscar Nominated Thespian properly involves a pact with the devil. After years of working as a well-respected but never high-grossing performer, Jeff Bridges is suddenly in position to win two best actor statues two years in a row. (He won’t, but he is in that position.) Javier Bardem was nominated mostly to steam Julia Roberts’ eldritch wrath.

Official Prediction: Colin Firth.
BEST ACTRESS:

Natalie Portman’s nervous, fragile, tragically graceful performance in “Black Swan” is both the obvious and favored pick. However, not so fast! Annette Bening has been nominated thrice before! Always remember that seniority and legacy have just as much, if not more, to do with winning as actual talent. Portman’s talent is far more divisive, and the Academy only likes conflict they themselves are responsible for. Bening’s role as a butch lesbian nurse might not be her best performance, or even the best performance in that film, but that might not stop her from taking home gold. (It worked for Al Pacino. The legacy part, not the butch lesbian part…)

Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” is truly the best of the group and the best performances of the year. Her acting will be the most fondly reflected about in future years. She should win but she most likely won’t. Michele Williams’ part in “Blue Valentine” is arguably just as nervous and gracefully tragic as Portman’s. Williams also seems to be more widely liked Portman by the critical community. She’s the dark horse candidate for me.

Oh yeah, Nicole Kidman is nominated too. Seeing as how it’s not 1999, nobody cares.

Official Prediction: Annette Bening
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

I was totally off in my prediction for the Best Supporting Actor category. The only two I accurately guessed are the two most likely to win. Christian Bale’s method actor intensity has won him a lot of fans. His general intensity has turned a lot of people off too. Of all the nominated actors, he’s the one I’d least like to fight. (Even 90-pound “Machinist” Bale could probably kick my ass.) His turn in “The Fighter” is his most acclaimed part this side of Patrick Bateman. But will he win?

He might. But Geoffrey Rush, despite all ready having an Oscar, has more money and Hollywood power pumping behind him right now. If it was my decision, I would honor as many films as possible with a win. But with the Academy, if a film wins once, it’ll probably win a few more. Christian Bale has plenty of years left and will certainly be nominated again. If Firth wins, Rush will certainly win. Even if Firth doesn’t win, Rush has a higher chance of victory.

Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and even John Hawkes’ nomination surprised me. They are all odd choices in my opinion and I’ll be shocked if any of them get it.

Official Prediction: Geoffrey Rush
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
All of that guess work and uncertainty present in the other categories? Not here in this one. Best Supporting Actress is one of the few categories where the Academy likes to honor newcomers and first-timers. Hailee Steinfeld has all ready won it. I’ve got no doubt. That’s why the studio campaigned her for this category despite her clearly being the lead character in “True Grit.” They knew she would win here.

Melissa Leo’s Golden Globe win increases her chances some but not enough. Amy Adams and Helena Bohnam Carter’s nomination probably had more to do with needing to fill out the category. I haven’t seen “Animal Kingdom,” haven’t even heard much about it, so I can’t comment on Jacki Weaver’s talent but it’s nice that the Academy threw a smaller film a bone.

Official Prediction: Mattie Ross, one hundred percent.
BEST DIRECTOR:

I don’t even really like David Fincher. I like all of his movies. I like some of them a lot. I even like “Alien 3!” But for some reason I’ve never been as fanatically devoted to him as many of his followers are. But he should win. “The Social Network” is some of his best direction and, generally speaking, Fincher has been under-recognized by the Academy. If he doesn’t win for a blatantly mainstream, critics-courting character study such as this one, he never will.

Darren Afronofsky is in the bucket that Fincher was previously in. His films are too weird, dark, nerdy, and cult-ish to get proper Academy love. “The Wrestler” was his bold-face grab for mainstream recognition and he wasn’t even nominated for that. The Coens’ have won before but won’t win for an impersonal genre exercise, David O. Russell is probably too much of an asshole to win, and who the fuck is Tom Hopper and why am I even talking about him?
Official Prediction: Fincher. Or else a million teenage boys with a screen-name copied from “Fight Club” will firebomb the ceremony.
BEST WRITING:

Why are films based on true events covered under the Written for the Screen category? “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech” both took direct inspiration from true events, so why are they considered originals? That’s mostly unrelated but it’s something that’s always bothered me.

“The Kids Are All Right” is considered an indie film despite having several major stars and a medium range budget. It’s the kind of small film that usually wins the writing award because the voters like to pretend they care about “independent” film. I personally hope “Inception,” because it is such a meticulously constructed and hugely ambitious screenplay, wins. “Another Year” is another odd, one-off nomination.

The Adapted Screenplay award is a little more exciting. I want “Winter’s Bone” to win and this is the category were a win is most likely for it. However, “The Social Network” has two things going for it. First off, Aaron Sorkin is a rare superstar screenwriter. Secondly, that movie is likely to dominate most of the categories it’s nominated in.

“Toy Story 3” might just take it as well. The Academy has proved in the past it favored Pixar’s writing staff. “127 Hours” is unlikely to win in any other category, so it could happen here. “True Grit” won’t win since the Coens just took the 1969 screenplay and put their names on it. (I kid because I care.)

Official Prediction: “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Social Network.”
BEST ANIMATED FILM:

What’s most remarkable about this category is what films didn’t get nominated. The Academy seems dead set against there being more then three films nominated for Best Animated Film these days, probably as part of some wide-sweeping conspiracy to keep animation down. “Tangled” and “Despicable Me” both should have grab nominations, easily.

What did get nominated was expected. “How to Train Your Dragon” was beloved animation while “The Illusionist” was the sure-fire “serious art” animation pick.

Who will win is so obvious that I’m not even going to bother to mention it. Pixar is probably adding a new wing to their building strictly to hold all their Oscars right now.

Official Prediction: “Toy Story 3.” Duh.
BEST MUSIC:
Trent Razor, of all people, might win an Oscar. His electronic score for “The Social Network” is certainly the favorite to win because it is so evocative. But it’s also an electronic score, not something the old fogies at the Academy tend to go for. (Yes, fanboys, that’s the other reason Daft Punk’s boring score for “Tron: Legacy” didn’t get one.)

All the other nominations are far more traditional. Hans Zimmer’s work on “Inception” is certainly the most recognized of any of these choices and the most likely of the secondary choices to win. None of the other scores really strike me as particularly exciting or innovative, but Oscar likes boring shit sometimes. (Most times.)

None of the best song choices are particularly inspiring. The songs in “Tangled” were all pretty great but the love ballad “I Saw the Light” was easily the weakest among them. (No love for the funny and catchy “I’ve Got a Dream?”) Despite that, it might be the best of these picks. Randy Newman has written better songs for Pixar then his subpar contribution to “Toy Story 3,” “We Belong Together.” “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” and “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” both strike me as some real office-radio disposable boring nonsense. But, as previously established, Oscar sometimes likes that stuff.

Official Prediction: “The Social Network” with a cautious nod and “Tangled” with a shrug.
MISC. NOMINATIONS:

I haven’t heard much of anything about the Best Foreign Film nominations, besides “Biutiful” being underwhelming. “Dogteeth” has some favorable buzz behind it, so it’s my choice mostly by default. The documentary choices are mostly unknown to me as well. “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” the most popular documentary of the year, wasn’t even nominated. “Restrepo” and “GasLand” are critically beloved but “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is certainly the most buzzed about.

Best Cinematography is going to be interesting. “Inception” and “True Grit” both have a big scope that will win them a lot of points, while “Black Swan” had a sweeping, personal, fantastic point-of-view. Honestly, any of them could get it.

True Grit” seems primed to win both Costume Design and Art Design, though the British movie about the king might get the former and “Alice in Wonderland” could grab the latter. “Inception” will probably dominate both sound categories, as well as best visual effects though, once again, Tim Burton’s mediocre latest film might win.

It’s kind of cool that Rick Baker’s underrated work on “The Wolfman” got nominated and, considering the low-key nature of the other two picks, the monster movie seems the likeliest to win. Rick Baker and the Academy do have a good track record when it comes to werewolves.

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On February 27, I will once again live-blog the actual show. I had a lot of fun doing it last year even if I’m sure nobody was following along. Look for it!

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 Film Preview

So, it’s been 2011 for almost eight days now. I guess I should probably get around to announcing the films I’m most eagerly anticipating, shouldn’t I? Since me and everybody else on the internet love making list of things, here’s my top ten list for 2011!

1. Cobalt Neural 9

Am I the only one who recognizes the Wachowski brothers’ genius these days? Out of their five films, three of them are great. (“The Matrix” sequels… Not so much. Yes, I just called “Speed Racer” great. BECAUSE IT IS!) That’s a pretty good track record for anyone. Their latest film is described as a cinema verite story about the secret homosexual love affair between an American solider and an Iraqi insurgent and the political upheaval that follows, as recalled in the far flung future. Also, something about Jesse Ventura having a third psychic eye. This is exactly the kind of project I so eagerly anticipate. Is it just crazy enough to work, or will it be a complete and total clusterfuck? Either way, it’s bound to be more interesting then anything else that comes out this year.

2. Green Lantern

I’m reluctant to place this film so highly. Despite being a DC man these days, I’m not a huge Green Lantern fan. (Aquaman is my hero of choice.) Ryan Reynolds wasn’t anybody’s first choice for the role, I think, and the trailer curbs a lot more from “Iron Man” then I’d prefer in addition to being a little too goofy. What’s really riding on this movie, more so then anything else, is the entire future of DC Comics on film. If this succeeds, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and, yes, even Aquaman will follow. If it bombs, expect nothing but Batman sequels. In other words, I don’t know if this will be good, but I sincerely hope it is, less so for the actual movie’s sake, and more for the franchise’s sake.



3. Sucker Punch

Set in the 1920s, a bunch of barely dressed Loli sluts grab katanas and machine guns, and proceed to fight dragons, robots, Nazis, and a giant samurai with a Gatling gun. I don’t know how Zack Synder got a hold of my eighth grade sketchbook but, if the trailer proves anything, I’m glad he did. My opinion of the director is mixed at best but his juvenile slo-mo obsessed style might actually benefit a born guilty pleasure like this.




4. Captain America

I love 1930s pulp heroes almost more then I love traditional superhero. Captain America always seemed like he belonged just as much to the former genre as he does the latter. Joe Johnston obviously got this job based on “The Rocketeer,” a movie dim in script that nevertheless perfectly captured the retro-serial look and feel. The fantastic production art makes it apparent that the same can be said for this one. Hopefully, the script is up to snuff…


5. A Dangerous Method

Who doesn’t love David Cronenberg? Douchebags, that’s who. His non-horror output has never endeared me to him as much as his genre offerings. But this film, a story about the rivalry between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, seems perfectly in tune with Cronenberg’s sensibilities. The premise is interesting enough on its own, but Dave’s attachment is enough to shoot this one into the top ten for me.



6. Thor

Superhero movies are fucking everywhere this year, obviously. You can’t throw a rock around here without bumping one. Out of all of Marvel’s major properties, this is probably the trickiest one. Kenneth Branagh, as unconventional a choice for a superhero movie as Jon Favreau was, seems to have a handle on the material, if the impressive trailer is any indication. This has the potential to be the most visually striking of this summer’s blockbuster offerings.



7. Immortals

If you recall, Tarsem blew my mind a few years ago with “The Fall,” a visual smorgasbord destined to be retroactively recognized as one of the best films of the 2000s. Normally, yet another take on Greek mythology wouldn’t interest me that much, but this director’s involvement immediately promises a far more attention-grabbing approach to the material. Tarsem fits the epic scope and magical spectacle of Mount Olympis more then any other director around.


8. The Muppets

Yeah, I love the friggin’ Muppets. Of course I do. Jim Henson’s creations haven’t been in a really good movie for over ten years. The indie-comedy talent staring, writing, and directing suggest this will at least be more interesting then “Muppets from Space” was, if not funnier while also maintaining the classic muppet sense of bitter sweetness. And, hey, that list of guest stars is pretty cool too!

9. Paul

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the best comedy duo we have, right now. “Spaced,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Hot Fuzz” are all modern classics. Guess what? This has an ALIEN in it! Seeing these guys take on the UFO conspiracy sub-culture sure gets my nerd juices pumping. The lack of Edgar Wright causes me to approach with some caution, as does the goofy CGI title character, but I trust these guys.



10. The Tall Man
Pascal Laugier, madman behind “Martyrs” and one of the most talented young horror directors out there, is essentially making a Slender Man movie. Not only is that a great match of director and material, it also promises to push mainstream horror into creepier, far more artistic territory. Yeah yeah, Jessica Biel is in it. Don’t kill my buzz.
Other stuff of interest (hopefully) being released this year:

The Adjustment Bureau, Adventure of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, Beautiful Girl, The Beaver, Bernie, Born to be a Star, Burke and Hare, Cabin in the Woods, Cars 2, Conan, Cowboys and Aliens, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Dylan Dog, F, Fantomas, Frankenweenie, Freeheld, Fright Night, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Green Hornet, Hanna, Hanukkah, Hobo with a Shotgun, The Hole, Hugo Cabret, Iron Sky, Jack and Diane, John Dies at the End, Kaboom, Killer Joe, Knights of Badassdom, Lovers of Hate, Machine Gun Preacher, Meek’s Cutoff, Now, Piranha 3DD, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Rango, The Raven, Real Steel, Red State, Rise of the Apes, The Rum Diary, Scream 4, Sherlock Holms 2, Source Code, Super, Super 8, Tabloid, The Thing, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, The Troll Hunter, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, The Ward, Winnie the Pooh, The Woman, Woman in Black, X-Men: First Class, Your Highness

Yeah, I could’ve done write-ups for all of those but would you have read them? I mean, honestly, would you?

Here’s hoping for a great new year! MORE STUFF COMING SOON!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Zack Clopton's 2010 Movie Retrospective Part 2

So here's the second half. THE MEDIOCRE TO BAD LIST. Think of this as an expanded "Worst-of" list, in that it also includes the stuff I only sort of liked and didn't completely hate in addition to the boring and flat-out bad.

TWO AND A HALF STAR FILMS:

51. The Wolf Man
The first two Wolf sequences are excellent, furiously gory moments of gothic horror. However, a number of forced-in jump scares and the father/son subplot, especially the way that cumulates, prevent this good movie from being a great one. A superior cut obviously existed in the editing room at one point but, frustratingly, that’s not the movie we got.

52. My Soul to Take
Wes Craven brings a lot of his early nineties goofiness to this one. The plot is melodramatic and the killer’s weak, but the surprisingly relatable characters make this one far better then expected. The kills are also pretty cool. I liked this one, condor puppet and all.

53. Triangle
The looping time cycle is such an interesting premise that it allows the movie to get away with a lot, like characters making foolish decisions or inconsistent behavior from an other solid lead performance. The musical score is haunting even if the “You can’t escape fate” thematics are worn out by the end.

54. The Girl Who Played with Fire
The mystery is nowhere near as captivating as in the first film and Blomkvist continues to drag the story down. Lisbeth kicks a lot of ass, there are a number of surprisingly good fight scenes, and the story does come to a satisfying conclusion. Also, that lesbian scene is hot.

55. Pig Hunt
As a character-oriented horror flick, it’s okay. As an over-the-top homage to hicksploitation/outdoors survivalist thrillers, it’s really good, with some great meat hook and dune buggy, dirt bike action. As a killer pig movie, it’s distracting and underwhelming.

56. Predators
I like that it took time to develop its cast of characters, I like the homage-laden score, and several action scenes are really well done. But it lacks those “Hell yeah!” moments a fan boy flick like this needs. It takes forever to get rolling, its really interesting ideas (like the Pred-on-Pred war) are underdeveloped, and the CGI is embarrassingly bad.

57. Survival of the Dead
Holy shit, a George Romero zombie movie that’s actually fun! The sociological messages are still here, but they take a back seat to amusing characters, breezy pacing, and zombie related violence. It isn’t perfect but it’s good to know that Romero is taking himself less seriously these days.

58. Colin
When it focuses on its money concept, the idea of showing a zombie film from the perspective of the zombie, it’s really successful, offering a stark, new angle on a worn-out genre. When any of the subplots take center stage, the movie drags. The shaky-cam direction, way too dark night shoots, and extraneous last ten minutes further keep this one from soaring.

59. The Runaways
The story goes through all the typical rock band biopic clich├ęs so, as usual, it’s all about the performances: Michael Shannon totally walks away with the show. Defying all expectations, Kristen Stewert is actually pretty good while Dakota Fanning is never believable for one minute.

60. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Captures what it’s like being a loser in middle school honestly. (But without all the swearing and causal homophobia, of course.) It’s too cartoony at times and once the friendship plot takes over, the formula falls in place and the movie looses most of its spunk. If the filmmakers weren’t so committed to convention this could’ve been something special, instead of just another kid’s flick.

61. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief
I like the idea of modernizing Greek mythology and the action/special effects/cameo laden cast are uniformly solid. But that episodic, set-piece oriented story, typical comic relief shenanigans, and weak finale makes this yet another Potter-inspired young-adult fantasy franchise non-starter.

62. Alice in Wonderland
They’ve transformed Lewis Carroll’s absurdist fairy tale into an epic action/adventure fantasy franchise-launcher. Boring. Burton shows none of his usual style and Depp’s performance is lazy. Luckily, the rest of the cast is strong and, once you settle in, the movie becomes an okay popcorn muncher.

63. The Human Centipede
Not as sick, twisted, insane, perverse, or weird as I hoped. It’s a competently made shock flick but the completely demented lead performance from Dieter Laser (Great name!) and the outrageous premise are the only outstanding aspects.

64. Chloe
Not a fan of the director, so I checked this out because of the promise of Amanda Seyfried nudity. (There’s a lot.) The first hour is nice piece of slow-burn eroticism but there’s too much contrived drama before the end and the resolution is silly. Good cast, though.

65. Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
Give Charlie Band some credit. He actually put some effort into this. It still has a really cheap look to it and there should have been way more puppet action, but the surprisingly character oriented story shows they were at least trying. I hate the cliffhanging ending though.

TWO STAR FILMS:

66. Daybreakers
A world inhabited only by vampires necessitates clever ideas. Amusing, sight-gag style conveniences are shown off. After the plot gets rolling, the movie becomes a typical horror/action flick with a muddled ending. But, in a “Twilight” world, I’ll take what I can get. At least these vampires fucking kill people. There’s a lot of blood in this movie.

67. The Crazies
This movie sure loves shooting people unexpectedly at the height of suspense. It does it four times. While being a competently directed and acted film with several strong moments, this movie failed to hold my attention or really make me care at any point in its runtime.

68. Clash of the Titans
Peruses is a kinda ineffectual hero, since someone else provides him with everything he needs. (That he’s played by Sam “Charisma Void” Worthington doesn’t help.) The pacing is off, the characters thin, and the otherwise competent direction shifts into Zack Snyder country a few times. But as a monster-filled special effects set-piece delivery system, this one fairs okay.

69. The Lovely Bones
Awesome scenes are immediately offset by awful ones. The scenes focused on generating suspense are the most successful, while clumsy narrative devices stifle the story’s forward momentum.

70. Tron: Legacy
The light-cycle scene is pretty cool and the visuals are impressive at first, but the movie quickly fades into self-serious drudgery. The clumsy story, lousy pacing, repetitive musical score, and overlong runtime sneak any awe the visual effects might generate.

71. Jonah Hex
Josh Brolin is really good as the title character. I kinda’ wish they’d make a sequel just so he could be Hex in a better movie. Megan Fox is useless, the story’s shoddy, and the movie is pretty stupid, all things considered. But it’s nowhere near as bad as I heard. It’s actually almost fun in a really simple, senseless way.

72. Devil
This supernatural locked room mystery tries to cast each character as a potential red herring, but it cheats with an obvious twist ending. The heavy-handed dialogue mentions coincidence and forgiveness a lot, lazily spelling out the themes. The cast is decent but, since this movie is all bluster and no muster, the characters are only given back stories, not personalities.

73. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Jackie Earle Haley is a sinister, pissed-off Freddy and exactly one nightmare scene is pretty clever. The rest of the movie is completely mediocre. The jump scares, bad CGI blood, total lack of atmosphere, bad make-up design, and lousy attempts to top the original don’t do nearly the amount of damage to this remake as the inconsistent, sloppy script and terrible climax.

74. Tony
I have a lot of patience for low-key, character-oriented horror movies, but this one was a little too slow even for me. While it captures the sense of isolation and social awkwardness a person like Tony would feel, you can’t really escape the fact that not a whole lot happens here and there doesn’t seem to be much of a point.

75. The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Boy, Zack Synder sure loves slo-mo, even in animation! The movie works when it focuses on its group of five main characters. However, the huge cast, elaborate mythology, uninteresting story, and sluggish pacing weakens any interest the viewer might have.

76. Greenberg
Decent characterization and performances are striving to escape from the typical mumblecore quagmire of suck, what with its disinterest in plot and pacing. Even abortion is treated in a completely laid-back, lackadaisical fashion. The dog is the only likable character.

77. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Jay Baruchel is funny but the rest plays like a bad mix of “Harry Potter,” “National Treasure,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The characters spent most of the movie spouting exposition and chasing after a MacGuffin with a silly name.

78. Robin Hood
By focusing on political conspiracies in favor of Robin and his Merry Men being a band of rich-robbing-poor-giving badasses, it removes the fun from the premise. Moreover, this is a middling attempt to launch a franchise, by leaving all the interesting, fun stuff out so they can use it in a sequel that will probably never get made.

79. Spike
A “Phantom of the Opera”-style gothic romance that is too sympathetic to the monster. His submissive, erudite tone never makes him threatening. The rest of the cast isn’t developed. The theatrical dialogue is a big problem. This is a well-made film, nicely shot especially considering a tiny budget, with the seed of a good story. I can’t say I liked it but its creative team has potential.

80. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
You know a movie’s bad when it effectively undoes most of its own plot before it’s over. Saddled with a convoluted mythology and melodramatic slow-motion obsessed direction, this can’t even provide the low expectations of a video game based summer action/adventure film. Some of the set design is pretty and Gyllenhall and Arterton have some decent chemistry.

81. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
It succeeds in out grossing the original in at least two scenes. But this doesn’t feel like a “Cabin Fever” sequel. There’s no cabin and the focus is on fast acting projectile vomiting instead of slowly working flesh eating diseases. The surreal humor is missing too. The great indie movie cast is really the only thing worth seeing here.

82. Repo Men
The story follows a very clear formula, the action scenes are well-done but feel out of place, the romantic subplot is anemic, and you see the twist ending coming a mile away. The movie’s all over the place tonally and can’t decide if it’s an action movie, a black comedy, a character study, or a health care satire.

83. 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams
Much goofier, cheesier, and cheaper then the first. While part one was campy, number two is a full blown gag comedy. If taken as a slightly more polished Troma film, it fares okay. But that doesn’t really make up for how uneven, disjointed, and poorly paced this is.

ONE AND A HALF STAR FILMS:

84. The Last Airbender
The writing is abysmal, featuring lots of broad exposition, showing-not-telling, painfully stupid dialogue, and a cheating deus ex machina. The child actors are incompetent and even the good actors are dragged down by the awful writing. The special effects are pretty good. I’ve never seen the cartoon, but it wouldn’t even have to try to be better then this mess.

85. The Experiment
Oh gee, an American remake of a foreign film that strips the story of all its subtleties and nuances. In addition to being louder, stupider, and crasser then the original, it also rushes the story, barreling straight into stuff instead of going for a slow burn thrill that gets under your skin.

86. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
For kids only. Completely simple, playing through on all the expected puns and gags. It’s never painful, just boring. It’s obvious the filmmakers knew kids were the target audience so they put nothing but the minimal amount of effort in. They barely cared and that’s painfully obvious.

87. Cop Out
Go back to Jersey, Silent Bob. It’s the only thing you do well. Tracy Morgan and Sean William Scott are extremely annoying, Bruce Willis and the story never once try, and the dialogue is aggressively bad. The score sounds like something out of an 8-bit video game. This movie sucks.

ONE STAR FILMS:

88. The Descent: Part 2
Goes out of its way not to follow the original’s lead. It focuses on jump scares over prolonged intensity. The cave looks far more like a movie set then previously. The supporting characters are either forgettable or jerkasses. The gore looks fake as hell. In the final ten minutes, the movie gets progressively more eye-rollingly asinine and insultingly stupid.

89. Animals
Nothing is ever scary when scored to techno music. Here’s a direct-to-video film that makes all the mistakes: Overreliance on voiceover, sloppy writing, incoherent direction, crappy CGI, sex positions that don’t seem even remotely possible… If you’re looking for shit, this one has it all.

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So that was 2010! So, what up this year, 2011? Well, coming immediately will be my 2011 Preview, in which I will discuss my most anticipated films of the present year. Following that, my full review of Disney's "Tangled" for my Disney Report Card will be coming soon. I'm having trouble finishing it. My Oscar Nomination report will be up as soon as the nominations are announced, which will naturally be followed by another attempt at a live-blog during the actual show in March.

Beyond that? I honestly don't know. Which Director's Report Card I post next has more to do with which ever one I finish next. I know I promised a Mario Bava Report Card back in October. Truthfully, that's just one of several different reports that might make it up first. Can't really tell there. In order to fill the spaces between, I plan on posting more Single Reviews of new films, older films, and whatever catches my fancy. What might also appear soon are more rants and essays about films and the film industry in general. I'm also considering a new project, in which I will pick a favorite actor of mine and then sit down and watch three of their films, picked at random.

Until next time, see you around!

Zack Clopton's 2010 Movie Retrospective Part 1

“Water, fire, air and dirt. Fuckin’

ZACK CLOPTON’S 2010 MOVIE RETROSPECTIVE!!!

How do they work?!”

I’m sure we’d all like to forget that 2010 happened as soon as possible. The Earth let us know how much it all hated us by decimating helpless third world countries with earthquakes, obscuring Europe in volcanic ash, raining meteorites over the Midwest and burying the east coast in snow. In return, America got its revenge on Mother Earth by flooding the Mexican Gulf with oil. (Take that, Nature!) In Washington, a bunch of assholes kept the president from getting anything done and then proceeded to blame him for not accomplishing anything. WikiLeaks and Vuvuzela confused and then irritate nearly everyone. Dennis Hopper died. It was a terrible, terrible fucking year. What an awful way to start the decade.

But before we can close the book on this unfortunate chapter forever, I must talk about something else, something more important then anything of that: Movies.

About the only thing that didn’t suck deep-fried elephant dong about this year were the movies that came out. From a filmic prospective, 2010 was actually a pretty solid year. Auteur filmmakers made their presence more known to general public, with great filmmakers continuing to add to their great reputations or building it up further. Animation also flourished this year, with Pixar, Disney, and even Dreamworks producing some of their best work in years, not to mention the notable independents that came along. Horror films were surprisingly daring. It’s not like there was a shortage of remakes or sequels but I’m thinking over ten years of independent horror making great product might have actually started to influence the mainstream studio’s way of doing stuff. Time will tell if any of this has any lasting effect but, for the time being, 2010 showed a lot of fantastic improvements and developments.

I saw 89 films this year, shattering all of my previous records. I’m like a professional movie critic now, except I don’t get paid or receive any sort of recognition from the press. It’s such a big list, that I’m actually going to be splitting this list into two parts: THE GOOD and THE MEDIOCRE TO BAD. Thus I present you with THE GOOD LIST. Enjoy. Please. I’m lonely.

FOUR STAR FILMS:

1. Inception
Chris Nolan finally combines his two aspects with this, an epic that takes place within the human mind. The writing is so goddamn good, perfectly balances SIX different storylines. Great visuals, wonderful cast, fantastic ending. It’s really, really good.

2. Toy Story 3
Another Pixar movie that makes me weep like an infant. For what’s ostensibly a kid’s flick, this handles some heady themes: growing up, preserving innocence, cynicism vs. hope, abandonment, facing death, even class struggles. That’s one of the secrets to Pixar’s success. Their movies are simple enough for kids but thematically complex enough for grown-ups.

3. Winter’s Bone
What’s really remarkable about this film is its extraordinary sense of location and its phenomenal lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence as a remarkably strong young woman. An involving, complex film-noir perfect for these economically depressed times.

4. Never Let Me Go
The premise forces the characters to face the inevitable facts of life with an immediacy you and I can’t. The way the movie filters these facts through a heartfelt love story and great characters makes for a powerful, thoughtful, sometimes depressing, moving film.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
This movie is pretty easy to love, with its infectiously fun style, lovable cast of characters, and its genuinely sweet love story. While the whole thing is filled with wacky, video game inspired fight scenes and day-glo humor, it’s actually a really strong metaphor for the emotional baggage one brings into a new relationship.

6. Shutter Island
A powerful mood piece. The mystery is captivating but also somewhat routine. What Scorsese has fun with is the massively foreboding atmosphere. The surreal nightmares are especially chilling. Several one scene performances from awesome character actors just sell it more. The ending could’ve been better but Scorsese doesn’t disappoint with this dark-as-shadows noir.

7. True Grit
An old-fashion western adventure that is surprisingly funny, filled with quiet humor, fantastic character interaction, and exciting action. Jeff Bridges is great as Rooster Cogburn but it’s really Hailee Steinfeld that gives the most impressive performance in the film.

8. Black Swan
A psychological horror film filled with mirror imagery, identity disorders played out on a viscerally literal level, surreal body horror, icky eroticism, mommy issues galore, sacrificing sanity for art, and mind-fuckery of both the subtle and melodramatic variety. Portman’s fragile-as-glass character drawls you in while the perfect writing and directing holds the boiling-over madness together.

THREE AND A HALF STAR FILMS:

9. The Last Exorcism
A movie more about beliefs and skepticism then it is about demonic possession. The documentary style drew me into the reality of the film right from the beginning, which may be why this one had such a strong effect on me. Great performances, smart writing, and a wonderful shock ending makes this one of the few stand-out horror films of the year.

10. Piranha 3D
A campy, over-the-top throwback to exploitation cheese of the eighties. This might be the most entertaining horror film of the year, with fantastic gore and creature effects, copious amounts of female nudity, and, most surprisingly, a cast of characters you actually care about.

11. Tangled
Disney continues to return to its classic style. This is a sweet love story, an exciting adventure film, an actually funny romantic comedy, a catchy musical, and a strong entry in the proud tradition of Disney fairy tales. The visuals are scrumptious and the characters are memorable.

12. Iron Man 2
At least six or seven major plotlines are running at once. The movie pauses for an hour to keep it all in order. And there’s only four action sequences. But Robert Downey Jr. and the rest of the cast are so good, it makes it all easy to watch. Despite its apparent flaws, the movie is really enjoyable thanks to a great cast, a brisk pace, a strong villain, and Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit.

13. Hot Tub Time Machine
A rauchy sex comedy about middle age regret? Yep, and it’s good, mainly because it takes time to develop its characters into interesting, layered, lovable fuck-ups. Depressing character comedy, sarcastic Cusack, day-glo eighties camp, surreal asides, and Crispin Glover screaming about rape? How could I not love this movie?

14. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
As far as murder mysteries go, this one is fairly competent, slightly overlong with a reveal that doesn’t surprise you, but a solid little thriller. But the fascinating character of Lisbeth, and the great performance from Noomi Rapace, elevates this film. If it had focused completely on her and dropped the boring journalist guy, it would’ve been really special.

15. Frozen
The character aspects of the movie aren’t one hundred percent successful but, once the movie starts rolling with its premise, it’s very successful, exploiting every meaty, “oh shit!” moment for maximum intensity. Adam Green graduates to really good director with this great “things-go-wrong” thriller.

16. Let Me In
A respectful remake, that is darker in same ways and smartly snips out unnecessary subplots. It maintains the original’s emotional core and that is solely because of the fantastic performances from Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Weak CGI, some silly vampire effects, and an inferior version of the climatic pool scene are my only complaints.

17. The Square
With each turn of the screw, the character’s situation becomes more desperate, more chilling, and the audience is dragged along, forced to watch as everything goes horribly wrong. The great lead performance, subdued musical score, and stark direction just further sell this.

18. The Exploding Girl
I’m really starting to like these indie dramas were nothing happens. They’re low-key in a way that’s life-like, not gimmicky. The quiet will-they-or-won’t-they? romance keeps you watching, drawling you into the main character’s anxious mindset, leading to a nice, bittersweet ending.

19. The Social Network
Is this a modern day “Citizen Kane” or is it about how, despite the internet making connecting to people easier, we’re all still very alone? Whatever it is, it’s captivating to watch, with fantastic performances, an eerie score, and a clever script. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but you can’t undersell a good character study either.

20. Easy A
Emma Stone is effortlessly charming and adorable. Her winning performance, the great supporting cast, and the insanely clever script elevates this above every other high school movie from the last ten years. This is the first time I’ve ever been happy to see the lead girl run off with her beefy crush at the end instead of the put-upon nerd.

21. Buried
Does a surprisingly good job of extending its clever short film premise to feature length. The situation is milked for maximum suspense, helped along by a game Ryan Reynolds performance and some fancy direction. This is a grim thriller that keeps you guessing

22. Dread
Starts out as a slow-burn thriller that gradually transforms into full-out horror. The cast is great, the characters’ fascinating, and the story presents a legitimate interest in psychological fear. There are too many jump-scares in the first half and I prefer the original short story’s ironic ending to the downbeat one presented here.

23. How to Train Your Dragon
Dreamworks has slowly been getting away from their lame, broad comedies and instead focusing on adventure films. While the story is still formulaic, this is an exciting, visually impressive, fantasy. It could’ve work as a big live action summer blockbuster with a little retooling.

THREE STAR FILMS:

24. Splice
The performances are strong, the effects’ very good, and, up until the last twenty minutes, this is an intelligent, challenging, sci-fi flick filled with all sorts of interesting ideas. The movie really goes off the rails in the last act, becoming a standard monster movie and goes a little over the top.

25. Kick-Ass
Big Daddy and Hit Girl should have been the stars of this. They’re the most interesting characters. Otherwise, there are a few uneven spots and I question some of the director’s stylistic decisions, but the completely awesome final forty minutes really makes up for everything.

26. The Ghost Writer
The kind of conspiracy thriller that Polanski has always excelled at making. Yes, it spends more time spinning it’s wheels then it does anything else, but the twists, turns, and reveals make it worth it. The story isn’t anything new but it’s always captivating.

27. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Michael Shannon is crazy. He’s not Hollywood crazy, he’s real life crazy, completely committed to his incomprehensible, bizarre, illogical ideas and conclusions. Herzog shoots in a low-fi, naturalistic style, letting the insanity speak for itself, presenting the Lynchian wackiness in a subtle, composed manner.

28. Secret of the Kells
The gorgeous visuals, which play like Byzantine murals animated with the rich details of Walt Disney, the smoothness of anime, and the slapstick energy of Craig McCracken, enlivens this fable of Irish magic while the beautiful Celtic score adds a deep layer of spirituality.

29. Machete
Danny Trejo kicks so many asses and, as an action-exploitation film, it’s a great success. Rodreiguz packs the movie with too many subplots and certain performances aren’t very good. The rest of the cult cast has great fun and when the focus is on the cartoonish violence, I loved it.

30. Harry Brown
What “Gran Tarino” would’ve been like if it had any balls. Sure it follows the vigilante formula closely, but the movie is powered by Michael Caine’s extraordinary performance and its sense of raw energy. While the action is bloody and satisfying, it never looses sight of the tricky moral questions at hand. The riot scene near the end is unnecessary and the CGI blood too obvious.

31. Catfish
Despite being bizarrely marketed as a thriller, this is actually a fascinating character study documentary. No matter how “real” it is, this film effectively explores loneliness, obsession, romantic longing, and the malleability of identify here in the internet age.

32. Monsters
An indie-romantic-drama with an obvious illegal immigration subtext and a few giant CGI octopi thrown in doesn’t sound like a very good monster movie, but the performances are good and the leads have great chemistry together. The climatic scene is quiet and oddly touching, as is most of the movie.

33. Hatchet 2
Part two quadruples the amount of gore, adds more humor, creates a mythology around Victor Crowley, sprinkles a number of horror in-jokes throughout, provides a great supporting role for Tony Todd, and is generally a better made film. But what was with Danielle Harris’ accent?

34. The Killer Inside Me
Casey Affleck brings this whole thing together. Despite a mixed-up story and some uneven pacing, his performance as a boiling over sadistic psychopath keeps the audience invested. The muted cinematography is pretty good too.

35. Fish Tank
The British answer to “Precious,” except the melodrama is less ridiculously contrived. Katie Jarvis’ lead performance is the main reason to see this one, even if the story throws a few unexpected turns at us. This is ultimately a familiar story but it’s at least a strong retelling of that classic formula.

36. Book of Eli
I didn’t expect this movie to have as much action as it did, nor for the action to be this intense or violent. The story is pretty by-the-book (Har.) and it fizzles out at the end but the stylistic execution and an above average Denzel performance makes this a winner in my book. (And har.)

37. Ondine
A dreamy, romantic fairy tale powered by lush photography, wistful music, and a fantastic group of performances, especially from Alison Berry. The story takes a turn near the end that I’m not sure I like, but overall this is a wonderful rumination on reality vs. fantasy, faith vs. doubt, and love vs. heartache.

38. The Loved Ones
Robin McLeavy is the clingy psycho bitch of the Facebook generation. Her performance is the main highlight of this twisted torture thriller. A number of scenes are quite intense, the gore is disturbing and envelope pushing, and the other performances are good as well. The completely useless subplot could have been cut and a human body takes more damage then is plausible.

39. The Losers
It’s not like this movie does anything new or special but, damn, if it isn’t fun. It’s cast is obviously having a total ball, Chris Evans in particular, and everyone has great chemistry with each other. It’s a shame it sets itself up for a sequel that will never come, instead of sticking with being a fun Sunday afternoon rental.

40. Winnebago Man
Interview documentaries are my favorites. They don’t attempt to sum up a whole life in nineties minutes nor do they beat you with a message. Instead, it’s just like meeting and befriending somebody. Jack Rebney, “The Angriest Man in the World,” is as much a character as that title implies. His rants and spiky attitude make for a fascinating, if lightweight, character study.

41. I Love You Philip Morris
Most of the joys of this one comes from Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s convincing chemistry as gay lovers and the amusing ways Carrey constantly undermines and ridicules the American prison system. The sincere mood shift in the last act is justified by the hilarious and completely unexpected twist it sets up.

42. The Expendables
For such a blatant homage to eighties action cheese, I’m really disappointed that the action slips so often into incoherent shaky-cam tactics. Beyond that, there are some pretty solid action set pieces, Sly and Statham are great together, and I do like that each one of the action stars get a sequence to themselves to show off how badass they are.

43. Cornered!
A small cast, closed up in a single location, slowly picked off by a vicious killer is a classic slasher set-up. The characters actually get some pretty decent development and have a nice repour. Gore is used in clever, nastily creative ways. There’s a sense of absurd fun running under the whole thing.

44. Suck
The director’s style gets a little out-of-hand at times, but the movie gets some surprising mileage out of its great cast, a handful of awesome cameos, and some pretty hilarious dialogue. If nothing else, this one provides the ribbing the vampire genre desperately needs right now.

45. Night of the Demons
Dare I say better then the original? It combines the anything-goes tone of the sequel with the original’s dynamite premise. It has an able-bodied cast (in more sense then one), some fantastic gore, some creative demonic carnage, cool fanboy homages (including a great Linnea Quigley cameo) and a rockin’ soundtrack. (Though it’s missing the Bauhaus.)

46. The Kids Are All Right
Strong performances all around power this indie-quirk-comedy-that-isn’t. It’s more of a light drama about the pros and cons of being married for a long time. The gay and sperm donor daddy aspects take a back seat to the two mothers’ relationship, which I guess is an okay thing. Julianne Moore sure is willing to get naked and Mia Wiaskowska continues to be a talent to watch.

47. Bad Biology
Strictly for demented cinema fans only. Frank Henenlotter has made his sickest, most perverted, sexually dysfunctional film yet. A strong female lead and the director’s typical sense of humor makes this feature length freak-show more entertaining then it would be otherwise. Will either squek you out or fascinate and amuse you, depending on how much of a sick fuck you are.

48. Youth in Revolt
Successfully captures how it feels to be a horny virginal teenager as well as how it feels to fall in love for the first time. The amounting absurdities that make up the plot produce a few laughs, but the story isn’t as clever as it wants to be. But a breezy pace, anything-goes tone, and solid performances make up for that.

49. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
There are some nice visuals and the chemistry between the three kids continues to be the heart of the series. But as someone mostly removed from the Harry Potter universe these days, a lot of this confused me. And, naturally, it’s just two-and-half hours of set-up.

50. Peacock
This quirky thriller is mostly powered by Cillian Murphey’s nervous performance. The plot goes back and forth on itself and doesn’t wrap up in a satisfactory way. But I don’t regret spending ninety minutes on it. Yes, Ellen Page does play an “escort” but, no, she doesn’t get naked.

END OF PART ONE