The Flick Chicks

My Pick of the Best Films of 2010

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      Judy Thorburn

Las Vegas Round The Clock -
Women's Film Critic Circle -
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By Judy Thorburn

Reflecting on 2010, last year was marked by an explosion of movies released in 3D. Of course there were the usual formulaic comedies, action packed adventures, sci fi fantasies and pychological thrillers, among other genres. But, when it came to quality, story driven, well acted films that were more than eye candy and hit a special chord in yours truly, I had a hard time choosing my top ten that should not be missed and those that receive honorable mention. My top two are just that, the crème of the crop among my eclectic list that included wonderful, worthwhile films for the entire family.

1. 'Mother and Child' - No other film in 2010 packed such an emotional punch on this reviewer as this absorbing drama about the unbreakable bond between mother and child that is universal and crosses racial boundaries. The story centers on the lives of three very different women whose stories eventually merge. Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington are nothing short of brilliant as (respectively) a middle aged woman, the daughter she gave up for adoption 35 years ago, and an African American woman eager to adopt a child of her own. Although the movie was released early in the year, it left an unforgettable impression like no other film last year.

2. 'The King's Speech' – Talk about a quest to find one's voice! Writer David Seidler based his script on the remarkable true story of the relationship between Britain's Prince Albert (aka Bertie) and his Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who helped “the man who would eventually be crowned King George Vl” (Queen Elizabeth's father) overcome his paralyzing speech impediment. There is wonderful chemistry between Firth and Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter's turn as Elizabeth, Bertie's adoring, ever supportive wife is a revelation. Most assured, come Oscar time, there will be well deserved award nominations in several categories including acting, set decoration and script. This British film is a gem.

3. 'The Kids Are All Right' - In this engaging comedy drama, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore deliver genuine, down to earth performances as a lesbian couple whose family life and relationship dynamics are shaken when their two teenage children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) track down their biological father (Mark Ruffalo).

4. 'Get Low' - Set in the Depression era, Robert Duval is moving in his portrayal of a feared, backwoods recluse named Felix Bush who decides to plan his own funeral while he is still alive and gets to listen while everyone who ever heard a story about him comes to tell it. Quirky, interesting characters populate this off beat tale that will unexpectedly get under your skin.

5. 'Let Me In' - Cloverfield director Matt Reeves' English language remake of the Swedish horror film centers on an outcast, emaciated looking 12 year old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the son in 'The Road') who bonds with what looks like a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz, from Kick Ass), but is actually a centuries old female vampire. Both share a hunger that needs to be filled; he for love and attention, she for blood to survive. Other than the less than credible CGI effects, every aspect of this stylish vampire horror tale/love story is superb including the score by Michael Giacchino, dark, dreary and ominous atmosphere befitting to the mood and perfectly setting the tone, and outstanding performances by the two lead young actors. No doubt, over the years there have been countless films about vampires, but 'Let Me In' is a different and unusual story that is like nothing I have seen before. More than letting me in, I was drawn into this haunting, beautifully acted thriller.

6. 'The Town' – Once and for all actor Ben Affleck proves he is a major Hollywood talent and that the praise he garnered as director of 2007's Gone Baby Gone was not a fluke. Back in the director's chair as well as star, he delivers another winner and once again deserves raves for this well paced, suspenseful crime drama about a bank robber who falls in love with one of his hostages (Rebecca Hall). The entire cast is great, but last year's best actor nominee Jeremy Renner (for The Hurt Locker) stands out with an explosive supporting performance that is sure to earn him another Oscar nomination, this time for a supporting role.

7. 'How to Train Your Dragon' - Based on the children’s book by Cressida Cowell, the writer/director team of Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (who did the similar "Lilo & Stitch”) deliver a heartfelt gem that is visually dazzling, with great voice over work from the entire cast. While the central focus is a boy and his dragon, as the story unfolds there are also insightful messages about father/son relationships, the importance of brain over brawn and preconceived notions about those we fear.

8. 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - The third and possibly final, fantasy adventure adapted to screen from C.S. Lewis’s popular children’s books finds the Prevencie siblings Lucy, her brother Edmund, along with obnoxious cousin Eustace joining up with King Caspian aboard the Dawn Treader on a dangerous quest to find seven swords that when gathered together have the power to save the Kingdom of Narnia from an evil spell. The first of the series to delivered in 3D (by way of post production) is beautifully crafted and a visual delight, with breathtaking seamless CGI effects, gorgeous set designs, the right amount of action and suspense and solid, engaging performances from its young stars. I loved The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and recommend this well paced, fantastic, fantasy adventure for the entire family. However, I feel parents should be warned that there are some frightening images that might be too scary for their very young children.

9. 'Toy Story 3' – Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head and Slinky, are back along with new characters in this colorful, charming, funny, and at times heartbreaking third installment from Pixar Animation Studios that once again pays tribute to the memories of childhood toys.

10. 'Paranormal Activity 2' – The first film didn't really give me a scare, but this sequel which took me by surprise in more ways than one, also acts as a prequel and is far more frightening. I nearly jumped out of my seat which is exactly what a supernatural horror tale is supposed to do. Well done! If you really like to experience things that go bump in the middle of the night, this scare fest fits the bill.

Last, but certainly not least, the following 8 films deserve more than just honorable mention.

'Rabbit Hole' – powerful Oscar worthy performances by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhardt in this deeply moving story about a husband and wife whose marriage begins to disintegrate after the death of their young son.

'127 Hours' – James Franco gives the performance of his career in this harrowing, true story of a cocky, 27 year old mountain climber who literally got stuck between a rock and a hard place and was forced to sever his right arm in order to free himself and survive.

'Hereafter' – Matt Damon stars as a “reluctant” medium, in this smart, touching, metaphysical story of three people looking for answers about the afterlife whose lives eventually interconnect.

'Shutter Island' – Martin Scorsese’s latest film venture since winning Best Director Oscar for The Departed can best be described as a suspenseful, gothic thriller of the “psychological” kind. In a departure from anything he has previously done, Scorcese gathered together a stellar cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio (his fourth collaboration with the director). It is the kind of stylish, classic movie with its mind games and dark and gloomy atmosphere, the late, great, master director, Alfred Hitchcock would have made had he lived to join forces with David Lynch and M. Night Shyamalan.

'Unstoppable' – Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek) are teamed up as a veteran railway engineer and his rookie partner on a mission to stop an out of control train carrying a cargo of toxic material that could wipe out a city in its path. Working from an effective screenplay by Mark Bomback, director Tony Scott’s latest film is an entertaining, fast paced, nail biting, adrenalin rush from start to finish and the best dramatic action thriller of 2010.

'City Island' - New York writer/director Raymond De Felitta (Two Family House) delivers a charming little story centered around an Italian family living in the small Bronx enclave called City Island. The story is filled with warmth and heart and excellent performances from the entire ensemble cast that have you actually caring about each character . You can't help but get caught up in their dynamics which plays out as a comedy of errors.

'Secretariat' – True story of the greatest race horse in history and his female owner (portrayed with a calm inner strength by Diane Lane) who defied a male dominated profession and would stop at nothing to reach her goal.

'Conviction' - Based on true life events that took place in the small town of Avery, Massachusetts, the story revolves around Betty Ann Waters's (two time Oscar winner Hillary Swank) relentless mission to free her older brother Kenneth (Oscar nominated Sam Rockwell) from a life sentence in jail for a murder he didn't commit

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