Made the list last year but didn’t finish writing it because I was occupied with other things. A bit overdue but hey! it’s still January so it’s not too late. For me, 2010 was a good year for the over top fun action movie genre that I really have a soft spot for. I had a blast with action movies like The A-Team and Machete. It was also the year of great movie soundtrack with Daft Punk, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nail and Hans Zimmer delivering epic music scores (I want them to do a collaboration!!).
– See previous list: 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek, etc.) and2008 (The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, Wall E, etc) –
10. The A-Team
From the director of Smoking Aces
Watched it: Once
I wasn’t really expecting much when they announced a remake of The A-Team. I mean, who the hell are gonna replace the original gang (especially Mr.T). Then they started casting what seemed to be actors that looked perfect for the role. AND THEN you see them act as the characters in the movie! Again, I’m a sucker for action movies and have a soft spot for those ridiculously fun ones; this movie certainly delivers in both departments.
Highlight: But what makes The A-Team special is that it’s about these four guys, each of them being bad asses in their own way, working together and bickering amongst themselves but always gets the job done no matter what. Watching these iconic characters gets portrayed both in a faithful and also refreshing way by these wonderful actors is best part of this remake. Hannibal, Face, BA and Murdock have distinguishable archetypal personalities (the brain, the look, the muscle and the ‘wildcard’) that makes it so fun to watch as a team and bein ridiculous situations. The first 30 minutes of the movie was brilliant in how they introduced each character one by one and setting the tone of the movie.
9. The Expendables
From the director of Rocky Balboa & Rambo
Watched it: Twice
Like The A-Team, this is another trip down memory lane. Both a tribute to the good ol 80s action movies and a straightforward-blow-shit-up-good-guy-vs-bad-guys movie….oh wait, that is the same shit 😐 There’s the muscular heroes (except for the Asian…who, in movies like these, is fast of course), the damsel in distress, the slimy bad guy who’s unsympathetic (played by Eric Roberts of course, always reliable when in need of channeling an aura of douchbaggery) and a long extended explosive finale. Speaking of finales, the movie stays true to what I like to think as the ‘core’ structure of a ‘real’ action movies. Let’s have the director and star of this movie explain it to you:
“Throughout cinematic history I believe the goal of well made action films was to illicit an emotional response, a visceral tightening of the stomach, not an intellectual response simply because the momentum of a film of this nature is to build to a crescendo rather than a point of intellectual debate while the film is going on.”
– Sylvester Stallone, AICN
That is why things slow down a bit in the middle and that is why you get extended scenes of bad guys doing bad things (especially to women and children). So you’ll have a cathartic experience watching the last half an hour of the movie where the good guys (literally) blow shit up.
Highlight: Like The A-Team, the best part about this movie is seeing characters portrayed both in a faithful and refreshing way. Wait? What?! Barnes, Lee Christmas, Ying Yang and the rest were never in movies before! True…but these actors are playing the same characters they’ve played before with some added twists. “Give this job to my friend here. He loves playing in the jungle,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger to Stallone’s character as joke on Rambo. And I did imagine that Stallone’s character did had jungle warfare experience like Rambo and Arnold has that sarcastic John Matrix/Dutch vibe in him. Same with Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren having that vibe of their past movie characters. Ok fine, maybe it’s just me and I’m making my own backstories for them but that’s how I see it and it made this movie more awesome than it already was.
From the director of Flightplan and The Time Traveller’s Wife (seriously).
Watched it: Once
Like the Expendables, this was another fun over the top action made up of badass old people. Unlike Expendables, the old people here are Bruce ‘muthaF***in’ Willis, John ‘muthaF***in’ Malkovich and Morgan ‘muthaF***in’ Freeman!! All actors deserves ‘muthaF***in as their middle name. Oh and add Helen ‘muthaF***in-Queen-Elizabeth-herself’ Mirren in a badass role too. Karl Urban round things up as the obligatory pursuer/Cat-hunting-mouse role but he brought some fierceness to the role that sold the whole Don’t-mess-with-this-guy deal. With Star Trek and the upcoming Judge Dredd remake, he’s on his way to earning that ‘muthaF***in’ status.
Highlight: We all know Willis and Freeman can play badass. Helen Mirren’s character was fun to watch but it was more of a gimmick. John Malkovich was the real highlight as the paranoid and mentally unstable ex-black Ops CIA agent. Just plain fun to watch. And how about that brutal fight scene between Bruce Willis and Karl Urban? One of the best fight scenes of the year.
7. The Karate Kid
From the director of Agent Cody Banks
Watched it: Twice
A remake of Karate Kid?? Hmmm the original is special. Jaden Smith?! Ok this sounds horrible and probably be some Disney/Nickelodeon stuff. Jackie Chan?! Wow I love Jackie Chan but how lazy was that in casting him for this movie – Can’t they find some other Asian and Jackie needs to be in a good Hollywood movie that doesn’t have ‘Rush Hour’ in its title.
Guess what? I was proven wrong. The Karate Kid was an example of a good remake.
– First, it’s been 20+ years since the original so there’s a whole new generation now who may not be ‘in tuned’ with 80s stuff thus putting it a ‘good-to-remake’ time period.
– Secondly, stick to the same formula of the original. This movie takes from the first two Karate Kid movie by having a kid who goes to a foreign land, gets bullied, trained by an unconventional master who has issues of his own past, falls in love with a girl whose parents don’t approve, enters tournament and wins it.
– Thirdly, put a different spin on it. Nothing to do with Japan, it’s now China. Despite the title, it is not Karate but Kung Fu. Add some nod or twist to the original (whoever came up with Jackie Chan slapping the fly instead of catching it is a genius).
– Fourthly, make a good story. Not gonna delve on that because we all know what it is…blah blah characters blah blah conflict blah blah inner conflict blah blah pacing
Highlight: Jaden Smith is actually really good! He can actually carry this movie and the future looks bright on this kid. Jackie Chan is finally in a good American movie that is not titled Rush Hour. The chemistry between the mentor and the student was the heart of the original films and it’s nice to see it carried over here.
6. Kick Ass
From the director of Layer Cake & Stardust
Watched it: Once
The ‘hero’ of this story became a superhero not because he was chosen nor he had any personal tragedy. He became one because he asked himself, “how come nobody has ever thought of being a superhero?” and “how come nobody is willing to help others when they see them in trouble? (aka the Genovese effect)” So he decided to wear a costume and just went out to beat up some bad guys in an act of pure bravery and stupidity combined. Despite the ridiculousness of a deadly acrobatic little girl who kills all the bad guy, the movie kept it real for most part with how it portrays the danger of reckless vigilantism demonstrated by the clueless ‘Kick Ass’. Case in point: the torture scene involving two of our heroes. And like The Dark Knight, there was a question of whether the superhero actually made things irreversibly worse.
Highlight: Remember I mentioned that ridiculous deadly acrobatic little girl who kills all the bad guy? ‘Hit Girl IS the highlight of the movie. nuff said!
5. Tron Legacy
From the director of award winning commercials
Watched it: Once
I really enjoyed this movie and the whole ‘world’/’mythology’ that was created. It is the long anticipated sequel to the 80s cult movie ‘Tron’ but don’t worry, you can still understand this sequel without viewing the original although I recommend watching the original to get some of the minor nods (I saw the original the night before I watched this movie and my friend didn’t even watch the original yet managed to understand the sequel). I personally think that the plot may not be as good as the original but the main characters were engaging enough to get you along the ride (Jeff Bridges played the dual role of hero and villain, Olivia Wilde evokes some childlike but also the sexy warrior vibe with her character and Garrett Hedlund shows some qualities of Jeff Bridges from the first Tron movie). And the special effects were awesome obviously….especially in 3D (Like Avatar, this epic movie SHOULD be watched in the best possible way – IMAX 3D)
Highlight: When the movie opened, you see these dots & lines with a voice over from Jeff Bridges talking about the ‘Grid’. And then you hear THE MUSIC as we swoop above the city and the title appears. Chills down my spine and a smile on my face. Daft Punk just outdid themselves when they fused the traditional cinematic epic orchestra score with their own techno synth style to create one of the best movie soundtrack in recent years. Rather than adding to the scene in a subtle way, the musical score in this movie was loud and in your face till it actually ‘creates’ the scene itself. Never have I seen a movie where there are not one or two but many notable moments where scene and music are essentially inseparable. Whether it’s Sam riding a motorcycle or when they enter the club & it’s subsequent fight. The most noticeable one for me was when our heroes gets into a situation in the elevator and THIS music starts blasting! I N T E N S E .
4. Scott Pilgrim vs The World
From the director of Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz
Watched it: Twice
When I saw Chris Evan’s character (the Hollywood star Ex boyfriend number #2) do that skateboard stunt and explodes at the end, I thought “Man, this movie is really stupid :-|” Then something happened…I’m not sure if it was when Michael Cera fought the Super Vegan (played by Superman himself, Brandon Routh) or when Ramona fought her Lesbian ex…the movie became….COOL. Then it got Cooler…THEN IT BECAME THE GREATEST THING EVER.
Highlight: There were many wonderful characters filling up the world of Scott Pilgrim but the best one for me was KNIVES CHAU. The character made me fall in love, annoyed, feel sorry, angry, raise my fist and cheer, embarrassed and do a facepalm, laugh out loud and cringe. But one thing for sure, there was never a dull moment whenever her character shows up.
3. The Social Network
From the director of Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac & The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Watched it: Twice
Let me break this down:
– The movie involves Facebook so it is relevant (Facebook is not something hip anymore, it’s part of the mainstream culture).
– This movie was written by Aaron Sorkin of ‘West Wing’ fame – famous for fast paced snappy dialogs.
– This movie was directed by David Fincher, probably one of the most talented filmmaker of his generation.
– This movie has a really engaging time jumping plot structure.
– This movie was scored by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nail and Atticus Ross in what is probably going to an Oscar nominated soundtrack.
– This movie has young talented actors like Andrew Garfield (Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and will be in the new Spiderman!) and Armie Hammer convincingly playing identical twins.
– This movie has popstar Justin Timberlake ironically playing the Napster founder in a breakout role (his character even has one of the best introduction).
Highlight: This movie has Jesse Eisenberg playing the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I’ve only seen Jesse from Adventureland and Zombieland (yes, they both have ‘land’ in their title) and I usually call him the ‘poor man’s version of Michael Cera’ LOL But in this movie, he still maintains that quality but he also brought more to the table in a subtle way. You can’t help to hate and admire his character at the same time. Is this a true portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg? Nop. I don’t think the movie is historically accurate and I don’t think the real Mark Zuckerberg is as interesting as Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg.
In the end, The Social Network is both a cautionary and a motivational tale. When you see ‘Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire’ at the end of the movie, everyone in my age was probably thinking the same thing – I want to build something and be successful.
2. Toy Story 3
From the director of Monsters, Inc & Finding Nemo
Watched it: Twice
What’s not like about Toy Story? Our loveable gang of Toys are back in another fun adventure!! But this time…
Highlight: …will be their last bittersweet adventure together. The stuff that happened in the middle was fun but the beginning and the ending is what elevates this movie to legendary status (yup, that’s me substituting the overused ‘Epic’). I really love how they took time to introduce the characters one by one in both the beginning/ending scenes acting like a final curtain call for the beloved characters that we’ve all come to love for as long as the toy owner Andy did. It’s also the only movie that I can think of that managed to surpass the first two movies of its series (hopefully until ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in 2012!). If you don’t get emotional by the ending then you’re not a human being. Period.
From the director of Memento & The Dark Knight
Watched it: Twice
I was obsessed with this movie and to a certain extent, I still am. Christopher Nolan crafted the ultimate summer movie that managed to be thought provoking and a thrilling action ride. Nothing more to add to all the other stuff written about this movie in the internet. (Here’s a shameless promotion: Check out my epic dream exploration series of article where I keep visiting the same place in my dreams ; having dream within a dream , cool weird stuff I dreamt the night after I saw Inception ; Comparing stuff from Inception with my own dreams.)
Highlight: The whole concept/structure of the movie is the main highlight for me. I love action movies and this one was basically a ‘Gun Fight within a hand to hand fight within a Car Chase’ so that’s an action movie within an action movie within an action movie!!