By Dwight Brown Film Critic NNPA
In 2010, high-quality movies abounded, though there was a noticeable dearth of black themed-movies — except for Tyler Perry films. Still, great African-American actors found high caliber product in which they could display their talent. The top 10 movies listed are the tip of the iceberg. Check them out on the big screen, on DVD or VOD.
Brooklyn’s Finest (***1/2) Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and screenwriter/ex-NYC cop Michael C. Martin propelled this character-driven dirty cop story into the rarified realm of top police dramas like Serpico, The French Connection, Prince of the City and Narc. Credit the seedy characters, biting dialogue (“How much longer you gonna be dodging bullets out here in the street?”) and a twisted storyline for the foundation. Kudos to Fuqua for his interpretation of this grimy, corrupt urban collage. Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and the chameleon actor Don Cheadle shine as wayward cops, strangers in the fast lane to hell until they meet during a drug bust one fated night.
Carlos (****) The real-life character and very treacherous Carlos the Jackal, an enigmatic international 1970s terrorist, binds this TV mini-series, which hit the theaters as a five-hour film. Thespian extraordinaire Edgar RamÌrez turns the Venezuelan revolutionary, who wreaked havoc all over the globe, into a diabolical antagonist. Carlos had so much swagger he even raided a 1975 OPEC meeting with his band of terrorists — and managed to escape. French screenwriter Dan Franck and director Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours) have sculpted a seminal international crime-thriller classic. A long fascinating film that whizzes by like a bullet.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (***1/2) This twisted whodunit features a petite, pansexual Goth-looking protagonist (portrayed by Noomi Rapace in the most challenging female role of the year), in an epic Swedish thriller trilogy (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Knew Too Much complete the set). Toss in murder, rape, torture, seduction and a straight arrow journalist (Michael Nyqvist) who’s investigating the disappearance of a woman lost 40 years ago; his prime source is the Goth hacker who brings out the sexy beast in him.
Inception (***1/2) Writer/director Christopher Nolan is responsible for the best action movie ever, Batman’s The Dark Night. He’s also the culprit who created the most twisted mind-blowing film, Memento. The best of both pictures permeates this dream-stealer movie that foils reality and defies imagination. The special effects in this film could only be conceived by Nolan, a visionary. He’s also given former teen stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) their best adult roles. This sci-fi thriller grossed almost $300 million at the U.S. box office – and no wonder.
The Kids Are All Right (***1/2) These days, a female couple (Annette Bening, Julianne More) with two kids is not so unusual. When the offspring look for their sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo), who is welcomed into their home – and one of the wive’s bed – what is au courant turns into unique family dynamics that would even puzzle Dr. Phil. As far-fetched as the basic storyline might feel, the very personal – Oscar-worthy – performances by Bening, Moore and Ruffalo make this family unit seem organic. Director/writer Lisa Cholodenko proceeds without alarm and with a sensibility that is lacking in most family dramas.
The King’s Speech (****) The British are known for being stodgy and emotionless. Hence this chronicling of the life of King George VI of Britain (Colin Firth), his wobbly ascension to the throne and the speech therapist (George Rush) who helped the royal stutterer find his voice, is so refreshing. The relationship between the shy blue blood and gregarious, unconventional therapist is emotionally rewarding. Tom Hooper directs from a script by an ex-stutterer named David Seidler, a 70ish screenwriter who couldn’t get his career off the ground until he struck gold with this superb, historical drama.
Mother and Child (***1/2) A bitter middle-aged nurse who gave up a baby, a heartless young female executive, and a woman hungry to adopt are on a precarious course, falling towards each other. If they ever meet, it will be a revelation. Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smitts turn in the best ensemble performance of the year. Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives) wrote and directed this ode to womanhood with the intelligence and evenhandedness that was so lacking in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls.
The Town (***1/2) Once a casualty of Page Six and other gossip columns, Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck has thrown away his celebrity crutches and become an astute filmmaker. This shoot ’em up follows a group of robbers who have never seen a bank in Charlestown, Boston they didn’t want to raid. Affleck and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) lead the thieves. Rebecca Hall, as a bank manager who unwittingly falls for Affleck, and Blake Lively, as the jilted girlfriend, add stellar performances. A very tense crime/thriller/drama.
True Grit (***1/2) Two eccentric, talented filmmakers, Joel & Ethan Cohen (Fargo, Brother Where Art Thou), adapt and update the classic western True Grit and turn it into a complete, sardonic romp. Jeff Bridges, as drunken U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, mangles his western drawl as he spits insults at an uppity Texas Ranger (Matt Damon). They both are after a murderer; Bridges at the behest of the victim’s precocious 14-year-old daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and the Ranger for the glory. Yes this 2010 film, drawn from a feisty 1968 novel turned 1969 movie does not veer far from the original(s). So what! The Cohen Brothers tangy, evil humorous dialogue and devilish direction still cut a wide swath.
Waiting For Superman (***) Shamelessly, America has made education less important than endless wars, tax cuts, Dancing With the Stars and bear hunting in Alaska. The keys to a bright future are children, and educating them and preparing them for tomorrow should be a priority. The controversy over public schools versus charter schools is well examined in this thoughtful, revealing documentary that traces the steps of kids who are denied the best education for all the wrong reasons. Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) takes America’s complacent educational system to task.
Good Films Hanging Off the Top Ten: Ghostwriter, Toy Story 3, Harry Brown, Shutter Island, Mercy, Centurion, All Good Things, La Mission, Barney’s Vision, Mao’s Last Dance, Animal Kingdom, Red Hill, Blue Valentine, Ghostwriter, Dryland, The Company Men, Nowhere Man, Expendables, Unstoppable, Fair Game, Let Me In, The Fighter, Jackass 3-D, The Tillman Story, Biutiful, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Get Low, Death At a Funeral, Shutter Island, Winter’s Bone, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1.
Disappointing Films That Couldn’t Find A Groove or Were Just Plain Awful!: Why Did I Get Married Too?, Book of Eli, Repo Man, Knucklehead, I Am Love, Tooth Fairy, Dear John, Cop Out, Get Him to the Greek, Due Date, Love Ranch, Scott Pilgrim, Machete, For Colored Girls, The Book of Eli, Black Swan, MacGruber, Sex and the City 2, Lottery Ticket.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Visit NNPA Film Critic Dwight Brown at www.DwightBrownInk.com