Well, maybe it wasn’t the absolute worst, but movie-wise the summer of 2010 was a pretty rotten one. Sure, there were some good flicks, but they tended to be few and far between, and could usually only be found in limited release form. This means that unless you were located in a major city your chances of seeing THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE or the MESRINE flicks were pretty slim.
Here’s my look at the movies released over the past four months, some horror-related, most not. They’re listed in the order in which they were released–or at least the order in which I saw them. As always, my opinions are strong and not a little biased, and I’ve admittedly missed several major releases. So…
IRON MAN 2
Didn’t see it.
TOY STORY 3
EAT PRAY LOVE
SEX AND THE CITY 2
THE LAST AIRBENDER
This film has quite a few problems: among other things, it’s at least 20 minutes too long and has too many extraneous characters (for instance the character played by Ellen Page, on hand solely to fill in expositional details). Yet like writer-director Christopher Nolan’s previous effort THE DARK KNIGHT, the whole thing is so audacious and action-packed that I was thoroughly entertained despite its flaws. In fact I’d say it’s the summer’s most satisfying movie overall, offering up enjoyment and provocation in equal amounts.
THE KILLER INSIDE ME
Director Michael Winterbottom tries valiantly to transpose Jim Thompson’s immortal fifties-era potboiler to the screen, but the film ultimately falls short. It’s too bloated and lugubrious overall, woefully missing the novel’s pulpy intensity. It does, however, feature a strong lead performance by Casey Affleck and some truly shocking brutality.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
This Swedish-made sequel to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (which, FYI, was released in the U.S. back in March) contains all the things that made that film the ass-kicker it was. In particular it has a powerful lead performance by the incandescent Noomi Rapace, and unusually frank (by Hollywood standards) depictions of sex and violence.
Easily the best of the PREDATOR follow-ups, but that’s not saying much. It’s one of those movies that starts off in riveting fashion but steadily dies down, with a real bumfart of an ending. It seems the filmmakers were deliberately leaving things wide open for a sequel, for which I won’t be holding my breath.
LIFE DURING WARTIME
Another sequel, this one a follow-up to Todd Solandz’s demented 1998 classic HAPPINESS. As with that film, LIFE DURING WARTIME is harsh and cynical. It’s also unusually intelligent and uncomfortably insightful–and will likely be totally incomprehensible to viewers unfamiliar with its predecessor.
A moronically enjoyable flick, with Angelina Jolie as a possible Russian spy getting chased around while keeping her motives hidden. Not that the character’s true nature is difficult to predict: it’s a big budget Hollywood product, after all, meaning moral ambiguity is kept to a strict minimum. Ultimately the film’s biggest failing is that it tries too hard to ape the BOURNE movies, down to the extended shaky-cam action sequences and the heroine’s final watery escape.
This sort-of remake of the classic Joe Dante cheapie definitely has some great moments, and more than satisfies in the gore and sleaze department. But it’s a bit overly self-aware for my tastes. The original PIRANHA may be far from perfect (as I’ve elucidated elsewhere on this site) but at least Dante didn’t try to make a so-bad-it’s-good movie, which appears to have been the aim here.
I’ll bet you missed this one, a DAS BOOT-like Israeli war movie set almost entirely inside the ultra-claustrophobic confines of a tank. The writer-director actually manned a tank during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, and so knows the territory. The film admittedly has its share of dead spots, but when it works it works pretty damn well.
The latest film by THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY’S Neil Marshall, a bloody actioner set in Northern England during the last days of the Roman Empire. As a historical epic it’s only marginally satisfying, but as a no-frills gorefest it delivers.
THE LAST EXORCISM
I’m lukewarm on this one, the latest DV-lensed mock-doc, and very much in the mold of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I’ll be writing a proper review of this film soon, but for now I’ll just say it’s not bad but not especially good, either.
THE OTHER GUYS
Didn’t see this one, as it just didn’t look interesting to me. I mean, it’s a comedic actioner about two mismatched policemen–not exactly the most original premise!
Damn…and I was looking forward to this movie! It’s not all that bad, really, just stodgy and by-the-numbers. The idea of bringing back the muscle-bound testosterone fests of the eighties sounded like a good one, especially in light of all the obnoxious nerds-with-superpowers action movies to which we’ve been subjected in recent years, but THE EXPENDABLES is ultimately too…well, expendable.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Speaking of nerds-with-superpowers movies, this is likely the ultimate example of such: it doesn’t even bother giving a rationale for how it is that the thoroughly nerdy hero is able to vanquish his hot girlfriend’s retinue of psychotic ex-boyfriends, or why said girl is interested in him to begin with, or why we should care.
Another one I skipped. Sorry, but I’ve seen too many shitty George Clooney movies to risk suffering through another.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The indie sensation of the moment, which has unfortunately come to mean safe, unadventurous and dull. For that and other reasons I passed on the film. The promise of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in a lesbian tryst might have seemed alluring a decade ago, but now…
A fun old school action fest that’s fun–and better than THE EXPENDABLES–even though it has all the depth of a roadrunner cartoon (the heavy-handed pro-immigration message aside). Yes, there’s plenty of diverting violence and female pulchritude, but that’s about all there is to MACHETE.
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT/MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1
These two French-made crime epics are perfect examples of the sort of thing Hollywood used to specialize in: they’re tough and smart yet also thoroughly entertaining, with a note-perfect performance by Vincent Cassel as the notorious seventies-era criminal Mesrine. Unexpectedly enough, the director of both films was Jean-Francois Richet, whose previous effort was the unimpressive Hollyweird remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.
Hmm, on second thought maybe this was the worst summer movie season ever! My favorite movie of the period, after all, is one I found deeply flawed, as I did with most every film outlined above. Maybe the rest of 2010’s releases will be better, but thus far the offerings–including DEVIL, I’M STILL HERE and WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS–haven’t been too promising.