Movie News & Reviews

Real life had big roles in some of the year's top films

Colin Firth, as King George VI, overcomes a severe stutter in The King's Speech.
Colin Firth, as King George VI, overcomes a severe stutter in The King's Speech.

It's time to consider and reconsider the movies of the past 12 months.

The big questions have been wrestled with: How do you weigh the merits of the three Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies, can you lump them all together, and even if you do, are they top 10-worthy?

I'm not certain, on re-watching it, that the moving finale of Toy Story 3 alone makes it even the best animated film of 2010.

I adored Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and True Grit, Please Give and Animal Kingdom, Conviction and Get Low, Mother and Child and I Am Love (the best foreign language film of the past year, I figure).

But in the end, you make your list and you take your stand.

Here's what I think were the best films of 2010:

127 Hours: How can you persuade people to go see "the movie about the guy who had to cut off his arm"? Mention that it's an exultant, life-affirming, life lessons-packed adventure and an exercise in bravura filmmaking, that James Franco commands the screen with a role that could define him — not the arm-hacking part, but the open-faced humanity and the sweetness that face displays, first scene to last.

The Fighter: Astounding performances anchor this "Jersey Shore Meets Rocky" boxing picture. Christian Bale, as the crack-addict has-been, leads the way, Mark Wahlberg fits perfectly into his perfect role — as Lowell, Mass.'s "Irish" Mickey Ward — Melissa Leo is the Boxing Mom From Hell and Amy Adams shocks everybody with her toughness and her potty mouth.

The King's Speech: This could be Colin Firth's Oscar, playing an abrasive, arrogant royal brought low by a speech impediment. But "brought low" here means letting his teacher (Geoffrey Rush, splendid as always) give this British king a common touch. Helena Bonham Carter is outstanding as the queen consort, Timothy Spall does a splendid Churchill, Guy Pearce is perfect as the vain Edward VIII, and Michael Gambon is formidable as the gruff George V who produced such messed-up offspring.

The Social Network: David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's delicious dig into the origins of Facebook is an Oscar favorite, benefiting from on-the-nose casting (Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) and a breathlessly witty script about big ideas, big money and the little jerk who caused it all.

Black Swan: We expect Natalie Portman to be a sympathetic and believable (on stage, and en pointe) ballerina fearing for her lead role and her sanity in a production of Swan Lake. It's not a stretch seeing Vincent Cassel as a sexy/menacing choreographer who manipulates her character ruthlessly in pursuit of some lofty artistic ideal. But who knew that Mila Kunis could hold her own with those two? Daring Darren Aronofsky, that's who. Oscars? Almost certainly.

Winter's Bone: Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence's breakout performance, as a rural teen whose rough, poor upbringing in America's meth lab belt has made her grow up too fast, is the calling card of this gripping rural crime drama. But riveting and raw supporting work by John Hawkes and Dale Dickey lift this beyond melodrama, beyond coming-of-age picture, and into an epic updating of cinematic Southern Gothic.

The Kids Are All Right: A lesbian couple's teenage kids want to know who their sperm donor-dad was. And that first contact, introducing a wild electron (Mark Ruffalo) into this solid, stable nuclear family, threatens to detonate the works, as lenient mom (Julianne Moore — give this woman an Oscar!) is tempted away from bad cop mom (Annete Bening, brittle and brilliant) and the kids (one of which is played by Union native Josh Hutcherson) suffer the consequences of their curiosity. This movie is a social game-changer. Yeah, sometimes two moms do make a right.

Rabbit Hole: All these years later, all that acclaim, all those awards and Nicole Kidman can still surprise us. She gives us the full menu in this film of the David Lindsay-Abaire play about parents coping with the death of a child — one still grieving, one too anxious to move on, to get out of the rabbit hole of agony. Aaron Eckhart is the "support group" half of the couple, Kidman the steely "Let's move on" mom. It's a brilliant, moving and funny performance that, thanks to the script, lets her take us to many unexpected places and emotions. It opens in most of the country Jan. 14.

I Love You Phillip Morris: This true-story comedy could have gone so wrong so easily that it's a tribute to the filmmakers that the gay prison romance script makes its clichés amusing, and to star Jim Carrey, who is hilarious, over-the-top, but so recognizably real that he is never a caricature. A con man comes out, ends up in prison and falls in love. Only in Texas. The movie has not opened in Central Kentucky.

Buried: Ryan Reynolds almost one-ups James Franco with his emotional, unnerving turn in this claustrophobic thriller about a truck-driving "contractor" kidnapped and buried alive somewhere in the Middle East. His lifeline? A cell phone. Reynolds turns what could have been a simple technical exercise in acting within the confines of a coffin into a tour de force, with fear, anger, panic and humor sharing that box with him. This movie never played in Central Kentucky.