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The Year in Review Reviewed

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Mark Kermode | 14:43 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Top and Bottom Five of the year's movie releases provoked a healthy torrent of suggestions from your own personal catalogues of the year's joys and horrors...

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  • Comment number 1.

    re: Heartless

    I'd forgotten about this film so I've just added it to my rental list, however I feel bound to point out that ['a popular online DVD rental service'] list "Heartless" as a 2009 release... ;-)

    Speaking of another 2009 film, I recently saw the football casual-related period drama "Awaydays" on DVD and was frankly rather disappointed by it. To their credit, the filmmakers got the fashion, the atmosphere and the music spot on and there was at least a nod to the undercurrent of homo-eroticism usually absent from films about football violence.

    That doesn't however forgive the flat acting (regrettably reminiscent of 90's teen drama "Byker Grove" and all that implies), a scattergun narrative, messily shot fight sequences and a lead character so singularly unlikeable and whose motivations were so opaque as to be rendered totally incomprehensible. It doesn't really work as either a thoughtful Bildungsroman or as a visceral 'fight' movie.

    I suspect it's been a victim of some vicious over-editing and perhaps a longer cut might have made the film hang together better. Such a shame because I doubt anyone will approach the subject with the same level of thought (one just has to look at it's contemporary "The Firm") and hence still no closer to understanding why young men want to engage in this sort of behaviour.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Virginity Hit will take all 5 bottom places, and the bottom for the decade too. I weep for humanity with this film.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'll mention it again, Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans is not as "incidental" as you make it out to be. It is an impeccably constructed, superbly cast and strange film that is without doubt 'a Werner Herzog film'

  • Comment number 4.

    "Fromage à trois."

    I laughed.

  • Comment number 5.

    I saw Bad Lieutenant last night and I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it before. I hadn't seen a Herzog film before, but it seems fitting that he's just made a film with David Lynch because there were certainly elements of his films in there. Really bizarre film and I just could not believe how bad a lieutenant Bad Lieutenant was. This is exactly the kind of thing Nicolas Cage should do more of.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think you may be the first English person to pronounce my first name correctly. I should also point out that Mayo pronounced it wrong when reading an email once!

  • Comment number 7.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion we recently saw a new candidate for worst film of the year - certainly I think it deserves bottom 5 status - in the "Piranha" remake. Not because it was bloody, or involved lots of buxom female flesh - those elements and the possible corruptive influences are all perfectly acceptable parts of cinema, and appear in quite a few of my favourite films. It was just plain terrible. What was intended as a semi-satirical "horror comedy" turned out - to me - to be by turns unfunny, wooden, and disgusting - the third act plays out like Dunkirk with killer fish. As a fan of stupid schlock horror (viz. my earlier defence of the "My Bloody Valentine" remake). Gore porn at its very worst. Heck, cinema at its very worst!

  • Comment number 8.

    I am still yet to see the films i hope will make it into my top 5 (Winters Bone, Made in Dagenham). However while of course my number one is Inception having all ready seen it twice (and still thought it was fresh the second time) there are a few interesting films coming out on DVD i am going to watch again Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant and The Killer Inside Me which i am looking forward now that all the controversy has -as it always does- blown over.

  • Comment number 9.

    Did you pick Winter's Bone as one of your favourite films? It's out here on Friday, and I'll check it out.

    Alongside Heartless and Black Death, over the last few weeks I saw 'Mother' and 'The Illusionist' which are my favourite films of the year. 'Mother' in particular is quite something. Bong Joon-Ho's appreciation for genre is quite beyond any other film makers. It makes me really sad how little not only he is appreciated but South Korean cinema too....
    I saw a cracking film at Fright Fest this year, a Mexican film called 'We Are What We Are', a really evil film.
    If however, I was going to put a film on the list which I haven't seen it would be 'A Serbian Film', which is quite possibly the most messed up film made for a while. If anyone has seen it, is it a valid 'war' film?

    Heartless had a festival release in 2009. Kermode had a big rant against critics who included films from festivals in their end of year lists which otherwise 'normal' cinema goers are unable to see. Heartless to Kermode's ruling is a 2010 film, as it was this year that it was released. To be really, really pedantic I am pretty sure Heartless was only shown twice in 2009 in the UK before general release in 2010; once at Fright Fest, and once at Comic Con at the ICA....

  • Comment number 10.

    Nightmare on Elm Street by far is one of the worst. It's a film with a truly rotten heart. It's a movie that ruins the mythology of an iconic character that millions of fans love. It's a film without ANY reason for existing other than to make numbers add up. It has no new ideas, it doesn't even work as a lame sequel that at least works like a cheesy fun film since it actually takes itself seriously and is convinced it's adding something to the character and series when in reality it's a soulless piece of garbage. It's not funny, it's not witty, it's not scary, it's not even the vaguest bit intelligent, it's not fun, and excepting Jackie Earl Haley's performance, it's essentially bereft of any redeeming qualities at all. It's a film that, thank you Michael Bay, exists SOLELY to cash in on a name, a film with a truly rotten heart.

  • Comment number 11.

    there's gonna be a lot of new entries in the bottom five but nothing can top the top of the top!
    Inception WILL remain the best movie of this year!

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't think I had seen it when I made my top 5 and bottom 5 lists but if I had have a very strong feeling that Certified Copy would be in my bottom 5. That was some monotonous, turgid, meandering snooze-fest.

  • Comment number 13.

    With regard to so many people including ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’ in their bottom 5 of the year, perhaps it is more about the level of disappointment rather than it technically being the ‘worst film’.

    For me, the worst film I saw last year was ‘Avatar’. This was James Cameron’s return to sci-fi, could he give me the awe and wonderment I felt when I saw Aliens or Terminator 2 for the first time? Plus it was promising to be the most advanced and amazing spectacle with 3d technology (having not yet watched a 3d film). What I got was an overlong, badly acted film with no plot, with the so called future of film 3d technology giving me a headache. It was a long way to fall.

    On the other hand, knowingly going in to watch anything to do with Michael Bay, I’m already angry with no real expectations of enjoying the next 2 hours. So if I were ever come out being even mildly entertained, that would be a success.

    I have yet to see Alice in Wonderland, but if I end up agreeing with a lot of the negative reviews, then it will be a bigger disappoint to me than watching Nightmare on Elm Street as I’m already assuming it’s going to be bad.

  • Comment number 14.

    @S Ford

    Your question re "A Serbian Film" being a valid war movie - No. Not at all. It plays as though it is commenitng on the way a nation and people were treated and complacent and jaded one becomes towards this type of subversion and violence. And whilst this may have been the initial intention, in actuality, it becomes violent, twisted and sick for the sake of it and to alienate the audience. Is it a film worth seeing? That would depend on your willingness to push your own boundaries about what youc onsider acceptable. I'm glad I watched. But I shan't ever watch it again.

    Films that will most deinately make my top 5 list (which is incomplete at present!) are Frozen, Scott Pilgrim (for sheer smiley factor) and possibly Simon Rumley's excellent Red White and Blue - But thats a festival release and I don't know if it will count.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think Expendables could be a contender for bottom 5. Also thought A-Team was crap.

    Also, I have to admit that Mark's right about Twighlight Eclipse. I'd written off those films before seeing any of them, but then my girlfriend and I watched the first two whilst hungover last Sunday - we were hooked. We just saw Eclipse and I went back and listened to Mark's review of it - he's spot on.

  • Comment number 16.

    I don’t see how anyone can rate Avatar as the worst film of last year (13. Kate). I agree, it's badly acted, full of plot holes and overly long but it is a spectacle. I understand film is subjective but I can’t see how a movie of this magnitude can be hated over films from 2009 such as 'confessions of a shopaholic', 'Ghosts of girlfriends past', 'Hannah Montana', 'The proposal', 'Terminator 4', 'bride wars', 'transformers 2' etc

    I posted my top and worst in the good Dr’s previous blog having seen ‘A Prophet’ which I thought was pretentious, too long and boring. However, it is still extremely well acted and directed, so therefore not in my worst 5. I’ve also seen ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs the World’ and also thought that was fan boy grott but I understand it is cleverly executed and original.

    My Worst 5 were

    ‘Alice in wonderland’ – Utterly boring.

    ‘She’s out of my league’ – Totally unfunny American bilge

    ‘Law abiding citizen’ – Need I say more?

    ‘Lovely bones’ – Poorly acted, looks terrible, bad casting and nowhere near as good as the book

    ‘Edge of darkness’ – Never seen a film with so many obvious goofs (see imdb)

    Oh and can people stop arguing over whether ‘Heartless was this year and so last year. That argument is dull and wearing thin. It may have had a ‘festival’ release in 2009 but it was released simultaneously in cinemas and DVD in the UK this year.

  • Comment number 17.

    How has Dr.K forgotten to address the INCEPTION situation?

    This film more than any other on the blog has divided the enthusiasts and so I'm wondering if the good Doctor is aware of how the film he will no doubt put in the *1 spot has been received in his blog?

    I personally believe that A Prophet is the clear winner and that Inception is in my bottom 5 simply because of the sheer scale of let down the movie caused

  • Comment number 18.

    Also - I wonder why there was no video review for The Expendables?

  • Comment number 19.

    Oh, thanks Dr. Kermode. I've been having an awful, awful week and the unexpected rendition of my Greenberg comment was a laugh I needed. There's nothing quite like a surly, appropriately irritated commentary on Baumbach films to lift the spirit. Do you do parties?

    On the subject of Airbender: when I went to see Inception, both times I went to see Inception, the trailer for the Shyamalan-produced Devil played before the film. Both times, BOTH, when "From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan" appeared, the audience collectively groaned and laughed at it. It was really bizarre, I'm not used to hearing an audience audibly react in unison, let alone doing it twice. The continuous downward arc Night's career has taken completely fascinates me on a morbid level (and best wishes for Airbender, Kermode - I'm dying to hear a second opinion on the film, but honestly you might need it).

    @S Ford:

    As far as Serbian Film goes, I think the film falls a little closer to Martyrs than it does to Hostel, in the sense that it feels like the film makers were making real cinema with real substance as opposed to creating as an excuse for shock value, and one actually /can/ make an arguement for it as a war film... I just don't think that it adds up to much.
    On the positive side, the acting and the cinematography are excellent and it just looks really nice, but the writing is pretty amateur. The allegory is there, but it's not very subtle (about like getting raped in the face - sorry, worst joke ever) or really that effective in the manner that it is executed. I think it made it about halfway there, but mostly it's just really nasty and sometimes the shock value gets exaggerated to the point where it's just nonsensical. And the ending was kind of laughable, as horrible as that is to say.

    Still, if you have a strong stomach it's worth seeing, if just to form an opinion on it.

    Hope you enjoy Winter's Bone. :)

  • Comment number 20.

    Thee worst film of this year, and indeed this decade is 'The Switch'. Jeff Goldblum looked although he was actually cringing in every scene, presumably because he was thoroughly ashamed of himself for selling his soul for a few bucks in doing this movie in the first place. I would not have been so offended by this film had it not been for the huge budget which must have been spent in paying the high profile cast, who clearly have no quarms about destroying any good reputation they had in the first place. Utterly appalling.

  • Comment number 21.

    I cant personally say that I have seen all the films you speak of in your top 5 for the year. However for me I would definatly include 'A Prophet', 'Bad Lieutenant' and 'The last exorcism'. I realise that the latter film caused abit of dissappointment with its conclusion, however personally I found it throughly entertaining throughout. I had no idea which way it was going to go at the end, turns out it took the rosemarys baby route. So im afraid I will have disagree with you here (and most others), yet i think the film was concluded well. Yet I can see why viewers would find it irritating.

    I dont have a complete bottom 5. But i know that The Last Airbender is definatly the worst film I have seen this year. Number 1: with a film like that you are perhaps hoping for some enjoyable fight scenes which was not delivered. Number 2: terrible acting, bar dev patel and his uncle. Number 3: Hilariously bad scripting, i.e. 'As soon as i lay eyes on you, i knew you would be a bender'.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think by default, as M. Night Shyamalan is involved in Devil, we will have a new contender for worst film of the year.

  • Comment number 23.

    RE A Serbian Film.
    Thanks for the interesting responses from those who seen him. It's intentions to serve as a commentary on the evils of war (something stated by it's director) seems like it may have failed to an extent. It's a strange old time for films dealing with the subject of war. I myself found the message of Hurt Locker to be repulsive and sickening, which a message of the film could be understood to be 'war is exciting and fun'. Even if a Serbian Film has fails to make it's intentions to show war to be violent and sickening and resorts to making a film to alienate it's audience it's a film that is generating some interesting debate on censorship and the Bosnian genocide.
    My long winded point being if Hurt Locker wins a bucket of Oscars for being the most celebrated film about the war in Iraq, which had little to no allegory about the horrible nature of war and was massively celebrated; wrongly in my opinion. Even if it fails A Serbian Film's director has spoken ill of war, something which never really happened for Hurt Locker.
    I will try to watch it at sometime, but only it's uncensored form- so far that is a problem of sorts in the UK.

    Airbender is a strange film. I've never been a cinema hall where there were so many people laughing at the film's unintentional terrible nature. I strangely enjoyed it, I found it hilarious, not intentionally though. M Night has become the Ed Wood of this generation of some sorts. 'As soon as I lay eyes on you, I know you'd be a bender.' Wow, what a great line!

    I'm a sucker for the word 'gothic' and it is one I have seen floating around in a few reviews of Winter's Bone, looking forward to watching it.

    Sorry to hear you've had a bad week. Hope it improves.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ S Ford

    I have to disagree with you about The Hurt Locker.
    I see where you're coming from, in that the main character was only happy when he was at war. But I don't think this should be read as meaning that war is fun. War has destroyed his connection with humanity so completely that the only time he feels alive is when he is so close to death. This nihilistic attitude left me feeling more depressed about war and its effects than I ever had before, which I'm pretty sure was the point of the film.

    If you want to watch a film that portrays war as fun and exciting then watch The Expendables, and see the difference.

  • Comment number 25.

    The central character being only at ease at war was an interpretation that was left to the viewer to decide upon. I myself wasn't able to form a connection with the central protagonist and my interests waned as the film went on. Personally, my interpretation wasn't that it was nihilism which made him question his normal life again (also, who the hell would leave Evangeline Lily to go to Iraq? More stupid than Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot) but the character seeking an adrenaline rush.

    Nihilism and war in American Fiction is wonderfully represented in Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian, which is a tough old book to read but Judge Holden's speech on the central nature of war to society is quite something.

    There wasn't enough existential dilemna in Hurt Locker for it's nihilism to be justified, which was my problem. It felt like Point Break in Iraq, needless adrenaline rushes followed by another.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ S Ford

    Blood Meridian is a rambling piece of work but I agree that it does offer a lot to those with patience.

    But a film like The Hurt Locker is very much in the vein of films nowadays that cut quickly leaving the scene earlier than one would expect.

    Like with The Green Zone, you never get much development over a scene because the director is very keen to move on and on all the time. That kind of discipline is very much a part of Hurt Locker and so development of character needs to happen over a number of scenes to work.

    I felt it did just make it with The Hurt Locker however brief - Bigelow was searching for an action film with social relevance and it said more about war than say Avatar.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm sorry to have to say it again Mark but you are so wrong about Heartless. I think I would go as far as to say that it would be in my top 5 of the WORST movies of all time.

  • Comment number 28.

    My updated top 5 are . . .

    5) Salt
    4) The Expendables
    3) Inception
    2) Predators
    1) Piranha 3D

    ... and I'm looking forward to Machete, Drive Angry 3D & Transformers 3D.

    Any takers?

  • Comment number 29.

    SFord: think you are way off the mark re: Hurt Locker. Whilst I agree that it wasn't the best film of 2009 and didn't really deserve the Academy Award, it most certainly wasn't implying that war was "fun" in any sense of the word. I'd go as far as to say that it wasn't so much a "war film" as a "film that takes place during a conflict" (and I would say something similar for "Apocalypse Now" - it's NOT a war film people!)

    If you wanted a message, you may as well watch repeats of the 1930 "All Quiet on the Western Front" for eternity, because all true war films are essentially minor variations of that story.

    "Hurt Locker" on the other hand, is purely an exploration of masculinity, the desire for adrenaline and the urge for self-destruction (in a sense, not a million miles away from "The Killer Inside me" or even "Vanishing Point"). All the war setting does is strip away societal norms and pressures, thus allowing the writer a more authentic exploration of the themes, but it could equally have taken place in the historical wild west, or the modern day Sierra Madre of Mexico, or perhaps an inner city slum in the Philipines.

    It's certainly one of the most "male" films I've seen in a long time, all the better for being directed by a woman.

  • Comment number 30.

    There seem to be a lot of mixed feelings about Expendables, when will Dr. K. give us his opinion?
    I think it was everything anyone could have expected it to be: nostalgia trip to the classic American 80's action film. There are some bizarre plot holes (like the whole Dolph Lundgren character), but all in all it's fun, funny and enjoyable. It's not in top 5, but it's closer to it than to bottom 5.

  • Comment number 31.

    I really don't understand how people can hate the Expendables THAT much? It is stupid and ripe 80's entertainment, which is fine. It is so nice to just watch a film where people don't need a deep psychological trauma or have a big chunk of the plot being taken up by explanation of why it is that the people act like they do.
    I also don't hate the A-Team as much as everyone else as well. No, i can hardly (if at all) remember the plot. But while I was watching it I was thoroughly entertained. Sharlto Copley making a joke about The Blue man group was worth the price of admission alone.
    The one action/thriller that people keep saying is actually pretty good is the one i personally had the most problems with. Salt. I was bored and it took about 5min to figure the entire plot of the movie (which for that kind of a movie is not a good thing). Maybe that I dislike Angelina Jolie plays into the whole thing as well quite a bit, but hey, when it comes down to it.
    I was entertained and had fun with Expendables and A-Team, i didn't with Salt.

    The movies I felt was missing from the dear doctors list was Black Death and Bad Lieutenant. The whole thing about Bad lieutenant was for me summed up the best by ''at the movies'' (phillips and a o scott) when they said something along the lines of that ''it is not the best movie ever made, but it makes you realise how boring everything else is'', and I sort of agree with that.
    Don't compare it to the original, just call it Port of Call New Orleans, if it makes you (or anyone else) feel better about the whole case.
    I would in fact go so far as to call it a cult movie.
    The biggest shocker for me this year so far though has to be Black Death. That movie was just something special. It feels good to not be alone in my love for these two : )
    Furthermore, I would have to give honourable attempt to Splice. So many neat ideas that sadly didn't come together all that well.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm with Joel on The Hurt Locker. The Iraq detail adds some relevance to current events, but the setting could be transplanted to just about anywhere and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. It's a good character study and an even better action film. The disarming sequences are real nail-biters.

    The Expendables was not so good. All that movie really needed to do was deliver good action and all I saw was a lot of poorly-chopped shaky cam and CG blood sprays. Call me a purist, but CG spatter just doesn't work for me. Didn't help that half of the cast looked tired. It's also not my kind of movie to start with though and it wasn't my pick, so eh.

    @S Ford:

    I saw Airbender the first weekend it was out over here before the bad word-of-mouth had gotten around and was pretty shocked at it. The worst thing is that I had tagged along with my sister and her young daughter, who was obsessed with the show and had spent the last month begging mom to take her to see the new movie. We were going to make a day of it and go out shopping and to dinner afterward, but the kid was so put out by how terrible the movie was that we just ended up calling it all off so she could be taken home. She is five and it couldn't even entertain her.
    Shyamalan appears to have a really high opinion of his work and the film from the recent interviews. I'm a little torn over whether he's lying to save face or whether he is flat-out delusional. I like to think it's the latter. (Also thanks for the sympathy. Not really the place to talk about it but between experiences with drive-by arson, flooding basements and the flu, the last week has been super stellar. It'll be fine though maybe.)

  • Comment number 33.

    @S Ford
    You're right about the guy leaving behind Evangeline Lily, what a nutter, I definately lost some sympathy for him when he did that.

    I also see your point about Point Break in Iraq, but I love Point Break so that just sounds like a good thing to me.

  • Comment number 34.

    No mention of Dogtooth? One of the best films I've seen in a long, long time. Hopefully it helps the Greek economy to pick up!

  • Comment number 35.

    #25 Re: Hurt Locker "There wasn't enough existential dilemna in Hurt Locker for it's nihilism to be justified, which was my problem. It felt like Point Break in Iraq, needless adrenaline rushes followed by another."

    Agreed. It was good but the scenes where they were clearing the school and alleys were rubbish and missed the mark completely.

    The best scenes are: bomb disposal for tension value, where he is talking to the baby, and also when he is "play fighting". The latter two were perfectly judged and saved the film for me.

    Inception: Was not prefect and had missteps, but absolutely is a great film. If you don't rate it, perhaps your remembered dreams are not very vivid and quite mundane, or you are not very "in to" science fiction.

  • Comment number 36.

    My Top 5 are and apologies for errors in Chronology are


    1. Inception
    2. Shutter Island
    3. Kick Ass
    4. Cemetary Junction

  • Comment number 37.

    My Top Five so far:
    1. Kick-Ass
    2. Scott Pilgrim
    3. Toy Story 3
    4. The Ghost (Writer)
    5. Avatar Special Edition

  • Comment number 38.

    Worst films of the year? Whichever ones had either Hugh grant, Jennifer aniston, drew Barrymore or Julia Roberts. Same as every other year, then.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just back from my annual jollies and caught Bad Lieutenan at last. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Cage certainly upped his game under the direction of Mr H, as my biggest criticism of dear old Nic has always been his inconsistency. Certainly one I wouldn't mind watching again.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have a film for worst film this decade never mind this year. "A Serbian Film", I learned of this film from Empire and decided to see if I could find out more about it online, what I did find made my stomach lurtch slightly to the left and up!
    Mark, you know this movie stuff better than most so could you answer me one question, how the hell does a film this disgusting and bad get made in the present climate of funding cuts?
    There must have been hundreds of other contenders for the money other than this very disturbed and hateful little film. Someone please tell me I am not alone in my revulsion of this type of quassi torture porn/slasher/porn film. I was hoping that horror films had moved on by now and would start to give us more intresting story lines to get our bums on seats. I hope for answers soon to pull me out of the doldrums.

  • Comment number 41.

    The worst film of the year for me has to be A Nightmare on Elm Street. This limp rehash achieved nothing aside from coming close to damaging the whole Elm Street legacy. It was dreadful from beginning to end, and somehow managed to achieve the impossible, by avoiding both the dark humour and scare factor that the original Elm Street movies is known for. Something tells me that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 might be one to miss.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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