Films of 2010


I saw 6 films on the silver screen in 2010.

1. The Social Network
Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin team up to deliver a truly excellent 21st century tragedy in which greed and personal success ruin a lot more than just friendship. My 'pick' for best 'pic' of the year. Full review here.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Edward Wright's postmodern meta masterpiece, featuring Michael Cera excelling at being Michael Cera. Hands down the funniest movie of 2010. Full review here.

3. The Princess and the Frog
I always thought Ron Clements and John Musker were treated unfairly by Disney after their 2002 effort, the criminally underrated Treasure Planet, failed at the box office. Sure, Disney is a multi billion dollar corporation that needs to make a profit, but these guys were sacked after one bomb. Luckily, John Lasseter brought them back when he decided to make another classically hand drawn animated movie. The Princess and the Frog is a glorious throwback to the fairytale stories that built Disney's empire. Wonderful characters, an engaging story, a terrific villain and fun songs by Randy Newman on the soundtrack. The movie underperformed at the box office as well, but was far from a flop. Here's hoping Disney will continue the tradition. And while we're on topic: Treasure Planet is in urgent need of a Blu-ray release!

4. Tron Legacy
Joseph Kosinski's visually arresting belated sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron (which I have yet to see). Excellent soundtrack, great cast, but the story sputters. I do have to revise my original opinion, though. Tron Legacy is a good movie, it's just not an excellent one. Full review here.

5. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Ah, poor Heath Ledger. Forever 28 and immortalised as Ennis Del Mar and The Joker. His resume found closure with this Terry Gilliam movie. A troubled production - a Gilliam requisite, it seems - marred by weird choices and confusing storytelling. Sure, it's all great to look at - but what does it mean? Featuring fine performances by Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a strange beast that will undoubtedly be discussed in film classes. Worth a look, but not one for the popcorn munching couch potatoes.

6. Alice in Wonderland
On paper, Alice in Wonderland couldn't fail. Burton, Depp, Disney ... these surnames alone merit awe. And still, for one reason or the other, the finished product is surprisingly mediocre. Truth to be told, the original animated version from 1951 isn't my favourite (animated) movie either. Full review here.



Purchases in random order


HD DVD

No HD DVDs in 2010. How sad.


Blu-ray

Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band - London Calling : Live In Hyde Park
Three hours of Springsteen in perfect high definition picture and sound. Special mention to No Surrender featuring the great Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. One major gripe : no subtitles. Not one Springsteen concert disc has ever featured subtitles. Wouldn't it be fun to be able to read the (excellent) lyrics while listening to the songs? I e-mailed Sony in 2007, asking for subtitles on a future Springsteen DVD and/or Blu-ray. They never replied and (apparently) never listened. Apart from that, it's a perfect release in every aspect.

The Princess and the Frog
A birthday present from my Germanic Languages friends. As stated above, it's a very recommended Disney movie. Also includes the movie on a standard DVD, which is quite generous.

Lost Boys - The Thirst
The second sequel to 1987's The Lost Boys is significantly better than The Tribe! Sporting the return of The Frog Brothers, this well-made direct-to-video release earns a recommendation. I do wonder why it's not called The Lost Boys - The Thirst.

Back to the Future Trilogy
The holy grail arrives on Blu-ray. My favourite movie of all time looks and sounds better than ever, thanks to Universal's careful (and not overdone) restoration. Great extras, including our first glimpse at Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly and a complete virtual recreation of the Universal Studios ride (which I sadly never visited before it was torn down), complete the package. To top it off, the collector's edition includes unnecessary (but unmissable if you're a Back to the Future connoisseur) physical goodies like a reprint of Gray's Sports Almanac, a DeLorean blueprint, postcards, posters and more.

Beauty and the Beast
Disney's sublime 1991 masterpiece, in better shape than ever thanks to an exhaustive restoration. I really can't fault this movie. Each and every line, moment, character, song, joke and plot point are executed flawlessly. A motion picture triumph for
the ages. Full review here.

He's Just Not That Into You
The American Love Actually in my book, although that description has since been applied to Valentine's Day. The latter is abysmal, according to dedicated movie critics. He's Just Not That Into You, on the other hand, may not be the second coming of cinema, but still offers a fun, diverting two hours.
Full review here.

Edward Scissorhands
Tim Burton's quintessential stunner from the early nineties. Edward Scissorhands - one of the first in a long line of Johnny Depp's awe-inspiring performances - does everything right : perfect pace, sublime music and terrific cast. A fairy tale in every sense of the word, with Vincent "The Rapper" Price as an added treat. If you haven't yet seen Edward Scissorhands, you don't know what you're missing.

The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian
The first Narnia was an accomplished, faithful adaption of the C.S. Lewis book. This second installment is more of the same - and that's not a bad thing! A solid, well-made kiddie flick that can proudly stand next to its older cinematic brother.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Disclaimer : I have not yet seen the Blu-ray version of this movie. I can, however, comment on the quality of the movie in question (after countless viewings on VHS and DVD). Painstakingly created using small clay figurines (and needing to slightly adjust them for every frame in order to simulate movement), The Nightmare Before Christmas is superb. The soundtrack is amongst the top 5 "best movie soundtracks ever" (Danny Elfman, thou shallt get thy statue sooner or later), the voice cast is top notch and the story is engaging. All pros, no cons.


DVD

Angry Video Game Nerd - DVD 1
Cinemassacre.com's James Rolfe is an internet phenomenon. Ever since Peter De Voecht told me about the (now monthly) web series in 2006, I've been a faithful follower. This first DVD collection (of, as we speak, 4) features all the episodes from the first season. My absolute favourite is the review of LJN's Back to the Future game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, in which Rolfe says : "Oh, look, I got a bowling ball. Remember that from the movie? Remember when Marty goes around throwing bowling balls at people?". Classic stuff.

Lost Boys - The Tribe
The god awful, unintentionally hilarious, so-bad-it's-good sequel to the 1987 original. Joel Schumacher - alive and well - is spinning in his, eh, bed. Full review here.

The Blues Brothers - Live at SNL
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi belting out blues classics, backed up by their excellent band. Recommended if you're a fan of the movie or the music.

My Girl 2
Inspired sequel to the 1991 original. Austin O'Brien and Anna Chlumsky deserve to be bigger stars than they are. They are a lot more likeable than some Hollywood youngsters that call the shots nowadays.


LaserDisc

a-ha - Hunting High And Low
My most expensive LaserDisc ever (a crippling $80 on eBay), but quite an interesting one too. It's a so-called "Compact LaserDisc", marketed with the tagline "the audio and video album". What does that mean? It offers both audio and video! Three clips (Take On Me, Train Of Thought and Hunting High And Low) represent chapters 1 to 3 and afterwards the audio takes over for an additional 10 tracks. A still of the cover art is on screen during the audio portions. I wonder how they tried to market it in the 80's : "Now, you can listen to your favourite album on your TV!"? Must have been great, before the advent of affordable surround sound home theaters. One question does remain : why didn't they include the The Sun Always Shines On TV clip?

Meet Joe Black
This engrossing tale of the Grim Reaper on holiday remains my favourite romantic movie. Another wallet-munching purchase at $49.99, but the steep price is relatively justified : this LaserDisc came out in the twilight years of the format when DVD was already planning to pounce and take over. As such, the disc was never pressed in high quantities and is quite rare. Full review here.

Meat Loaf - Bat out of Hell II - Picture Show
Three clips directed by a then-upcoming Michael Bay, short interview snippets with Meat Loaf and my hero Jim Steinman and four live performances. With spectacular video quality that easily matches DVD to boot! This LaserDisc was brand new, mint in plastic wrapper, courtesy of a chap who used to work at Pioneer and subsequently sold the unused demo discs on eBay.

Touch of Evil
Another brand new Pioneer disc, this Orson Welles classic comes complete with supplements and subtitles. Subtitles on a LaserDisc without the use of an expensive add-on? Yes, thanks to Teletext. How does this work? I have no idea. How can it still work after 17 years? It sure baffles me. Answers to the usual address.


Absurdly cheap LaserDiscs (all 3 on eBay)

Waterworld
Kevin Costner's bloated apocalyptic adventure. A laughing stock for years, but it turned a profit ... and it's a fun ride! I saw this in cinemas in 1995 and was subsequently very impressed.

Aladdin
The 1992 Disney classic. Perfect songs, killer quotes ("Whoever has the gold makes the rules!", "I'm losin' to a rug", "Can I call you Al ... or maybe just Din?" etc.) and a hilarious Robin Williams as Genie.

The Little Mermaid
My favourite animated Disney movie. Words can't do it justice, so I won't even bother.

Hercules
A Disney movie I have never seen before. And still haven't. One to watch.

The Lion King
Yet another desert island Disney movie. Infinitely hummable, instantly recognizable, endlessly rewatchable. Pure awesomeness. All together now : "When he was a young warthog ..."

Titanic
James Cameron's 1997 opus. It was quite successful, if I'm not mistaken. Full review here.

Wrongfully Accused
Ah, the late great Leslie Nielsen. The world is a lot less funny without your presence. He was criminally sentenced to bit parts in unfunny movies for the last ten years of his life, but Wrongfully Accused (while not as funny as his careers highs Police Squad!, The Naked Gun and Spy Hard) stands as the last chuckle-worthy piece of pellicule he starred in.

Beauty and the Beast
As stated before and above, this is Disney at its creative peak. Genius.

Desperado
Robert Rodriguez' exhilarating Latino revenge actioner, powered by a smooth Los Lobos soundtrack, a hilarious Steve Buscemi, a tough Antonio Banderas and a sultry Salma Hayek.

Forrest Gump
This look on 20th century America through the eyes of one unlikely hero remains a brilliant movie with too many highlights to count : shrimp fishing with lieutenant Dan, dancing with Elvis Presley, "stupid is as stupid does", watching Sesame Street, running across the country, "I gotta pee!", endlessly mowing the lawn, investing in Apple, inventing the Smiley logo, naming the boat, "bestest best friend" etc. Seventeen years on, Forrest Gump is one movie that will never get old and/or lose its poignancy.

City of Angels
Directed by Brad Silberling (responsible for the excellent Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Casper), this is one romance that left me a little cold. Well crafted, beautifully shot and decently performed by all players, but never quite gripping. Odd. Special mention to The Goo Goo Dolls's Iris, a song to cherish.

Jumanji
"In the jungle you must wait ..."; sixteen years down the line, Jumanji still dazzles its viewers with a genuine mix of excitement and memorable characters. The special effects weren't realistic in 1995 and they (understandably) still aren't today. The LaserDisc cover, however, claims that Jumanji features "special effects that make Jurassic Park look like an amateur film". What pot was Paul Wunder from WBAI Radio smoking?

The Frighteners
In 1996, Peter Jackson was merely known for his low budget splatter movies and his acclaimed drama Heavenly Creatures. Just before he made history with his The Lord of the Rings saga, along came The Frighteners featuring the ever reliable Michael J. Fox in one of his last starring roles. This terrific horror comedy failed to make it big at the box office, but deserves to be revisited any time. If you haven't seen The Frighteners, I strongly recommend a screening.

The Goonies
One of my most sought-after LaserDiscs for the low low price of 3/$4! One rental VHS, one retail VHS, two UMDs, one DVD, one Blu-ray ... I have more versions of The Goonies than ex-girlfriends (and I'm sure there's a connection somewhere). I still need the Betamax, the VCD and the CED. And the 35mm-print, of course. Happy hunting ahoy.

The Lost World
The inferior sequel to Jurassic Park. I was present for its theatrical Belgian debut in 1997, but I never saw it again (until the acquisition of the LaserDisc, that is). Sure enough, it's a perfectly fine popcorn movie - but we've come to expect a lot more from the Steven Spielberg.

The Rock
Michael Bay's best movie! Then again, I'm not really allowed to bash Bay, for I haven't seen the majority of his work (Pearl Harbor, The Island, Armageddon, Revenge of the Fallen ...) and I enjoyed the ones I did see (Transformers, the Meat Loaf clips).
The Rock was a blast in 1996 and still is today. And on a related note : let's finally give Ed Harris an Academy Award. The man is excellent in virtually every movie he made.


UMD

Depeche Mode - Devotional
A.k.a. the Anton Corbijn concert film. I can't say I'm a fan of the band (not because I don't like the music, but because I don't know the music), but this was too great an offer to pass up at 2/$3.

The Goonies [Japanese version]
My second favourite movie ever for Sony's portable PlayStation. OK picture, acceptable 2.0 sound, English subtitles, no extras. "For Japan only", the back cover claims. Well, thanks to yesasia.com, that warning proved futile.


VCD

Forrest Gump
Just "$1" on a local flea market. Robert Zemeckis's 1994 movie is a masterpiece, but this VideoCD isn't. The format offers nothing more than VHS quality, spread across two discs with forced Dutch subtitles. Great for collectors - but then again, does anyone truly collect VCDs?

Back to the Future Trilogy
Just like the Japanese The Goonies, these VideoCDs are courtesy of yesasia.com. In English, with Chinese subtitles. Shame I can't read the simplified Chinese symbols or I would be learning a new language while watching my favourite movies. Audio/video-wise, it's crap. Funny : 100% of my 2010 VCDs are directed by Zemeckis. Just a coincidence, though.



Julian De Backer, 15 May 2010