|One of the many challenges faced by the "hero" of Please Please Me!|
BTW - please feel free to leave a comment with some of your faves of the past year that fall into this sort of non-existent category? I'd love to see what tickled your fancy in 2010.
- Score A Hockey Musical (Canada) - - I'm not Canadian or a hockey fan. And I found numerous parts of this film to be fairly horrible - so yes, I loved it. The story of a young home schooled boy (raised by Olivia Newton John) who's a hockey prodigy and his lifelong next door female friend (a cellist) who try to navigate his national discovery as the potential wunderkind of Canada's national sport. Yep - it really is a musical and I'm sure I missed some in-jokes. But the goofy relationship between the kids and his singing hockey team totally worked for me.
- Easy A - Sometimes one just wants a nice solid teen sex comedy and all the better if it hearkens back to one's childhood favorites. While some movies throw a nod few really capture that moment in film-making well. In this case though more often than not I felt Easy A was both entertaining in its own right and balanced out the homage pieces to 80's comedy (subtle and not so much) well to make a solid film. Sure, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the parents of main character Olive (Emma Stone) stole the film. But I felt even against that high bar most of the actors delivered. It's no Bandslam (starring Olive's mostly BFF Alyson Michalka) but it still had me laughing and caring (at least a little) about the characters. Admittedly, it's really really hard for me to imagine the alternate universe where Emma Stone can't get a date. But the film engaged me enough to allow them that yearning chasm of dramatic license.
- Gallants (Hong Kong) - I think that broad audiences will enjoy this movie without the need to come to it with being prior fans of martial arts films or more specifically 70's era kung-fu flicks. You know, the ones that probably played on local TV Saturday mornings when you were growing up (OK, when I was growing up). Starring many folks of that era the picture follows the travails of a couple of older kung-fu practitioners who've given up their life waiting for their master to come out of a coma. When a local real estate sleazeball needs some serious ass kicking it's clear these guys still have it. Though "it" isn't as strong as it once was. And there's no little blue pill for that. With a message of the triumph of putting everything you can into your struggles regardless of any loss of power with age the Fantastic Fest description of Cocoon with kung-fu isn't far off.
- Kick-Ass - the bloody story of teens who don the mantel of great super hero responsibility without the great powers to match was mega-hyped before it's release. So the fact I had a very fun time almost surprised me. I figured it would fall seriously short, but that didn't happen - it was as big a hoot as I'd hoped. This isn't something like A Prophet in my book but it's a fantastic example of how great popcorn entertainment doesn't have to be totally dumb, crappy, and targeted only to 13 year olds. I'll be rooting for this as a dark horse to at least make the ten nominees for best film come Oscar time. If only because I want to see the interpretive dance with the onscreen caption "Kick Ass." 'nuff said
- Piranha 3D - Piranha 3D is one serious piece of trashy B-movie film making. And I mean that in the best possible way. A fairly tightly put together bloody T&A fest that kept the tension up for me during the entire ride. Plus it totally nails the landing with respect to wrapping up the festivities. This isn't for your kids and probably not a first date film - but it delivered exactly what I needed when I saw it.
- Please Please Me! (France) - A few years ago I saw a film at SIFF titled Shall We Kiss? which explored the dangers inherent in a single smooch. This year the director and actor from that film returned to Seattle (figuratively) with the very entertaining film Please Please Me. A hilarious sorta cross between The Freebie, After Hours and (untitled) this film was an unexpected treat. Sweet, funny, at times insightful and filled with luscious eye candy it was just delightful. Oh, and did I mention it's in French?
- Splice - a cautionary "arrogant scientists with a god complex are bad, especially if one of them had a troubled childhood and the other is Adrien Brody" tale with enough humor to make for a very palatable film. It's ridiculously stupid - and if that's going to bother you don't go. I know many hated this film, which I suspect was because they were expecting sci-fi/horror. Which it's basically not. There are some scares but the best parts for me were the ones that purposefully or not drew out big laughs. These scientists make Rick James look like a member of the conservative christian right (and not the ones hiring travel valets at rentboy.com). When you're at home watching look for the opportunity to yell "honey, it's not what it looks like!!!" Trust me, you'll know when.
- Predators - Not sure what's more surprising that I enjoyed the sequel to Predator or that two of the films on this list include Adrien Brody. The sport hunting aliens are back having kidnapped a wide range of bad-asses from earth and beamed them to an alien world. They're hunted, they try to survive and at one point there's a samurai sword fight. I can't say I've seen any of the interim Predator themed movies (or at least I won't admit to it), but this one was sort of fun in very unexpected ways.
- Step Up 3D - For reasons I cannot entirely explain I was drawn to the theater to see Step Up 3D. I think I anticipated an epic combination of ridiculous dialog/story, hard to believe could be done dancing and super-gratuitous use of the third dimension. The trailer certainly pointed in that "we have a house for dancers, they live together, train together, battle together" boy is this silly direction. The reality was it was fun to watch if at times goofy - but all in a "hey this isn't as bad as I expected" vs "I'm totally making fun of the film way." Plus, it's one of the few times that I felt the 3D gimmick brought something extra to a film. 'respect!
- Today's Special - Aasif Mandvi perhaps best known as a correspondent on The Daily Show gets to be the center of attention of this crowd pleasing foodie film (that he also co-wrote). It's not an especially complex tale - a "by the numbers" chef is forced out of his comfort zone when he's forced to take over his father's simple Indian restaurant. Given some magical influences he rediscovers his roots and of course becomes a smash success (I don't think I'm really giving anything away there). It's colorful, light fun with some truly amazing looking food at the end.
- Banlieue 13 - Ultimatum (France) - One critic put the line to what I thought about briefly towards the start of B13-Ultimatum, "leave it to the French to invent a martial art that involves running away." The sequel to the fun District B-13 which was a hybrid of Escape from New York fused with crazy parkour action. The plot doesn't really matter as this is silly brainless fun with some very talented folks. Most notably not strung together through micro edits like some films starring John Travolta.