It’s common knowledge that there are certain genres of film that are
almost always snubbed by awards voters. These are usually comedies,
action films, horror movies, etc. Fortunately, we got some good ones of
those genres this year and I’d like to list a few of them in this, my
final Year In Review countdown.
These are my picks of 2010’s ten best “lowbrow” pictures. Some of
these are quirky, some are stupid, some are comedic, but all of them are
fun. That’s the key word for this list: “FUN.” These films are ranked
entirely in order of how much I enjoyed my time watching them, no matter
how guilty the pleasure may have been. That said, let’s dive in.
I realize that this is a strange entry on the list, as its annoying
jump scares and focus on more heady material don’t fit the profile of a
“wild ride.” Still, this is a film that went into obscurity all too
quickly and didn’t get nearly its due, so I want to give it a mention
somewhere in my Year In Review.
This movie was bursting at the seams with ambition. It had a detailed
and well-realized world adapted to vampire domination, it took the
unprecedented step of using vampires as a relevant metaphor for
overconsumption and it introduced a new method of curing vampirism that I
found elegant in its simplicity. This was a breath of fresh air for the
tired vampire subgenre and I personally think it’s a shame that the
film wasn’t better-received.
I’ll readily admit that this wasn’t entirely my kind of movie, mostly
because I’m not the kind of filmgoer who enjoys camp and I’m not very
good at letting blatant plot holes slide. Still, this was a unique
little picture that was nice in its own way. The film fit perfectly with
those kids’ action films of the ’80s and ’90s, which I admit made me a
touch nostalgic. Moreover, I liked the movie’s creativity and the plot
was a lot of fun to watch in a goofy kind of way. I also found the
ending to be quite poignant, even while it worked as parody.
Talk about a guilty pleasure. This film was not ashamed to have a
perfectly predictable story that rigidly stuck to all the established
conventions of the genre, but it wasn’t content to stop there. No,
Alexandre Aja and company took everything we’d expect from a monster
movie and cranked it up to 11. Thus, the film serves as a parody and a
tribute to all of its forebears, much as Snakes on a Plane did a
few years back.
Everything in the film works toward this intention. The movie’s
tongue-in-cheek tone is reinforced by the stunt casting, the lame
dialogue, the gimmicky 3D, the characters who are just asking to be fish
bait, their inventively gruesome deaths and the premise that
transparently sets itself up for the watery mass murder of drunk and
half-naked coeds. Throw in Kelly Brook and Riley Steele in what’s easily
the greatest nude scene of the year (and quite possibly the decade, for
that matter) and you’ve got yourself one hell of a good lowbrow time.
This film took the genius step of getting more characters to frighten
and/or kill, which allowed for much more scares than the original could
provide. Furthermore, being forced to watch this movie from a fixed
perspective led to a lot of tension as to what was happening just
off-camera. Even better, the movie was made with half a dozen fixed
cameras, so the editor could cut between them when the current view was
getting too uneventful. In every possible way, this film was an
improvement on its prequel and a rather scary film in its own right.
I had more fun with this movie than anyone with a college degree
should. The creativity that went into these stunts is every bit as
amazing as it is frightening and the 3D added a lot to the presentation.
Most importantly, it’s clearly obvious that these guys are having the
time of their lives. That enjoyment is infectious, even as they’re
jogging through a hallway of tasers for our amusement.
Say what you will about this brainless and crass entertainment, but
these stunts are so brilliantly conceived and presented that I can’t
help but laugh as I watch in horror. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge
2010 was a big year for action movies, with such films as The
Losers, The Expendables and RED all hitting screens in
quick succession. But none of them — save only perhaps for my #3 pick
— delivered pure explosive euphoria like The A-Team. From the
tank that parachuted from a plane gone kaboom to the “How’s my driving?”
bumper sticker attached to it, this movie was positively giddy in its
depiction of implausible and over-the-top mayhem, which I found so much
fun to watch.
The film also features some very good performances from Liam Neeson,
Patrick Wilson, Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley. The film also found a
worthy successor to the Mr. T role in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, even
if the script totally misused the character. I know that the movie is
dumb as can be, but I had such a great time watching it that I can’t
help putting in on the list.
I can still remember when this trailer
debuted. Immediately afterward, I had it downloaded in QuickTime HD so I
could play that last scene over and over again in slo-mo.
There’s no denying that the suitcase armor is pretty damn sweet. The
film also featured a drunken “best friend” brawl between two guys in
armored suits and a spectacular climax in the third act, not to mention
Scarlett Johansson looking hella fine as she kicks ass. The film also
has some good comedy by way of solid banter between RDJ/Paltrow and
RDJ/Cheadle, in addition to such jokes as the hilarious “ex-wife” gag.
Best of all, this is the film that started earnestly laying down the
foundation for a bigger and grander Marvel universe. There were hints at
it here and there previously, but this is the film that started clearly
showing some pieces getting put into place. Here, we’ve got an Easter
egg callback to The Incredible Hulk, an open acknowledgment of
the prototype for Captain America’s shield, the post-credits tease for Thor,
S.H.I.E.L.D. playing a bigger role than ever before and who knows what
other clues that we might be able to look back on after The Avengers
gets released in 2012?
Yes, there are a few stupid plot points (a new element? Really? Well,
I guess this is a comic book movie…), but this was still a fun ride
that effectively got us excited for what’s next in store.
I know that this one might look out of place in the middle of all
these action-packed and lowbrow movies. It is, after all, a very smart
movie that’s brilliant in its humorous treatment of such a sensitive
subject. Only a month ago, there was a Muslim terrorist bomb attempt two
blocks away from the theater where I saw this movie, for God’s sake.
Still, I’m putting this movie in here — and so high up — because
it’s funny, funny, funny. The lead characters were such an assortment of
idiotic wannabes and self-righteous twits that watching them suffer,
fail and fight amongst each other was side-splitting. I was laughing fit
to burst all the way through this movie’s brief run time, which
certainly makes for a fun experience by any definition.
Thank you, Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo, for delivering exactly
what you promised in Grindhouse and then some.
Here’s a film that’s gleeful in its irreverence, shameless in its
action, corny and copious in its sex appeal and sincere in its homage to
D-films of yesteryear. The stunt casting is pitch-perfect from start to
finish and Danny Trejo is staggering as a grizzled badass. The racial
humor is smartly used to drive the (paper-thin) story, provide heavy
doses of humor and establish this film as a piece of latter-day
exploitation. It’s an all-around politically incorrect good time.
Just when the superhero film genre started to look tired, this little
gem came along. I know that Watchmen tried to satire
over-the-top brutality in comics and comic book movies a year earlier,
but it was Kick-Ass that perfected such depiction of how stupidly
exaggerated comic book violence can be while also making it clear just
how ugly that exaggeration really is. This movie also made its violent
scenes scary and suspenseful — partly because our heroes were just kids
— but in such a way that miraculously stayed entertaining to watch.
Furthermore, the movie was also wonderfully funny and refreshingly
optimistic about how much good one person can do, no matter how young or
This film is very stylish in its presentation (two words: Gatling
jetpack) and solid in its casting. Bonus points for introducing the
world to Chloe Moretz, who’s quickly proven herself to be one of the
year’s greatest discoveries in acting and she hasn’t even hit her stride
yet. Girl’s got one hell of a bright future ahead of her. Add in Mark
Strong’s tongue-in-cheek mob villain against Aaron Johnson’s eager and
sympathetic hero-in-training and you’ve got one amazing film.
Good Goddamn, I love this movie. I love the sterling and perfectly
selected cast. I love the spectacular effects. I love the stylish and
inspired editing. I love the colorful visuals. I love the gut-busting
comedy. I love the energetic and unique fight scenes. I love the
authentic garage band music and I love the changes from the source
material (some of them, anyway). Though Bryan Lee O’Malley originated
this wonderful coming-of-age story about a guy trying to find himself
while fighting for love, Edgar Wright successfully made it his own to
staggering and hilarious effect, all while keeping the spirit, heart and
funny bone of the text perfectly intact.
It’s a crying shame that the film never got its due at the box
office, but I think that just adds to the cult appeal. Can you just
imagine fan screenings of this movie? Maybe with some audience
participation cues? People acting out the scenes? Live bands covering
the music numbers? I really do hope that comes to pass someday because
it would surely be awesome.
I was anticipating this film for months before it came out and I was
thrilled that it lived up to the hype. The best wild ride of 2010