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10. “Kick-Ass”/“RED” (tie): “Iron Man 2” might’ve been a huge disappointment but “Kick-Ass” and “RED” were two comic book films ready to save the day. In “Kick-Ass”, we got to see what superheroes would look like in reality, with the responsibility of protecting society but without the superpowers that make the job easier for demi-gods like Superman and Spider-Man. While the costumes were shelved in “RED”, the lesser known comics series-turned-film allowed Bruce Willis, as retired CIA Agent Frank Moses, and his group of over-the-hill misfits, to show us that age takes beauty in the espionage game.
Character Spotlight #1 — Hit-Girl: Is it wrong to brainwash your daughter into becoming a 12-year-old, masked vigilante ready and willing to kill a bunch of gun-toting criminals? Of course, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make for a fascinating piece of fiction. Chloe Moretz soared in 2010 as Mindy Macready in “Kick-Ass”, both making us laugh and cringe at an underage actor with twice the stomach for blood than any adult.
9. “The Fighter”: Christian Bale shines as ex-boxer and drug addict, Dicky, and Mark Wahlberg holds his own as both a fighter, Micky, and a leading athlete in his second sports film (“Infamous” being the first). Avoiding the “Rocky” clichés, director, David O. Russell, knows how to add emotionality to a formula film idea by adding drug addiction to the usual addiction of the ring.
8. “Despicable Me”: It was a good year for animation, especially when supervillain, Gru, took on his greatest task yet: adopting three children and finding an emotional soft spot when his job frowns on such personal connections.
With adorable characters and top notch animation, “Despicable Me” feels less like a summer movie and more like a lasting story with some of the year’s most quotable lines: “It’s so fluffy,” “Unicorns I love them (sung)” and “Light bulb!”
Character Spotlight #2 – The Minions: Sure, Minion from “Megamind” had his moments, but I’m talking about the walking Twinkies in “Despicable Me”. Gru’s workforce for his diabolical plans might communicate in squeaks, but their escapades make this endearing film easy to understand for any age group.
7. “127 Hours”: Danny Boyle had quite the feat ahead of him, following his Best Picture win, “Slumdog Millionaire”, and “127 Hours” didn’t disappoint. James Franco provides the best performance by a male actor in 2010 in a lead role with virtually no co-stars. Bio-pics don’t normally go into the mind of someone on the verge of insanity, but when the antagonist is stuck in a cave for over five days and is pondering the amputation of his own arm, then letting the director of the psychedelic hit, “Trainspotting”, work his magic is the perfect choice.
6. “The Social Network”: Remember Myspace? Say hello to the man who destroyed their stronghold on the Internet networking community, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg).
With “Fight Club” director, David Fincher, and a score by Trent Resner of Nine Inch Nails, “The Social Network” was an unlikely hit, especially since most bio-pics don’t know where to begin or end. This one stayed on target with great performances and a tight editing to turn a story about a chauvinist’s obsession with HTML code into the anthem of the technology generation.
5. “Black Swan”: Natalie Portman better win the Oscar for her role as Nina Sayers/The Swan Queen in “Black Swan”, director Darren Aronofsky’s exposé on the hardships of ballet companies and the unlikely psychological effect on one woman, trying to capture the essence of her dual role as the White Swan and Black Swan by attempting to tap into her wild and more sensual side.
4. “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 1”: I know it should be heresy to consider the seventh installment of a franchise worth any critical acclaim, as James Bond and horror movies’ monopoly on the extended franchises proves. But “Harry Potter” is one of the few film series that keep getting better and with director David Yates at the helm, “Part 1” had the wit, visual beauty and pace worthy of the book series. Like “Empire Strikes Back”, the lack of an ending didn’t keep this one from keeping the magic alive.
Character Spotlight #3 – Harry, Ron and Hermione: This may be their seventh film together but Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) provide some of the most enjoyable character chemistry of the year as they prepare for wizarding battle. As we’ve watched these three grow up, the films have matured into character pieces just as much as blockbusters.
3. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”: Edgar Wright did comedy right with his Brit sensations, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, and his first film with a big budget was everything I’d expect from the director who truly understands the nerd generation. The razzle dazzle of visual effects and hilarious performances make this comedic, superhero musical transform the age-old tale of young love into an epic, 16-bit video game, where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat seven exes to win over his love, Romona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
2. “Inception”: Making dreams and dreams within dreams into a full-blown action movie. Thank you, Christopher Nolan, for taking 10 years to come up with this one, revising the story and waiting for digital effects to catch up. It also doesn’t help to have Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard, along with marvelous breakout roles for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy. Add to everything a grand musical score by Hans Zimmer and the final product is a journey through a dreamscape that can’t be brushed off as just another REM cycle.
1. “How to Train Your Dragon”: With all the original ideas in 2010 (and even more poorly executed ones), the simplicity of “How to Train Your Dragon” won me over: a simple story about a boy and his pet dragon (take that “Old Yeller” and “Black Beauty”) that took on the themes of “Avatar” — oneness with nature and fear of otherness — without the condescending racial simplifications. Wonderfully shot for IMAX 3D, this isn’t just kids’ entertainment but the best film of the year with equal doses of adventure and humor, packed in an incredibly designed animated package by DreamWorks. Does Pixar finally have competition for Best Animated Feature? Let’s just say our dragon, Toothless, is ready to burn through Woody, Buzz and even a princess with some “tangled” hair.
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