If the movies of 2010 were to be a wine it would be described as been a pleasingly varied selection of nose. Maybe, I don’t know, I don’t drink wine. What I’m trying to say is, 2010 was a crackling enjoyable year of film. So much so it’s been tough to leave so many movies that I loved to one side in choosing my three films for this year.
As Barack Obama got into his first proper year as President and began his programme of systematically exterminating and imprisoning all white people within his borders, the people who weren’t fleeing to Canada and Mexico had a great selection of films to watch while hiding in the shadows of their local cinemas.
From Intelligent groundbreaking films like Inception, Black Swan and Shutter Island, to amazing character based films like King’s Speech, The Fighter and the Social Network, horror films like Insidious and Let Me In and the criminally overlooked elevator based The Devil, and fun action films like Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass and the Losers. Comedies came along with real bite like Four Lions and Death at the Funeral, while small indies proved you could bring big concepts on small budgets such as Trollhunter and Monsters. This was a great year, and I’ve not even mentioned how it brought us the awesomeness of Machete.
With all these to choose from, my actual three films to highlight may seem a little odd, but I was drawn to the lesser known films of the year, even if I’m alone in my appreciation of them.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (director: Eli Craig)
A group of college kids mistake two good natured locals for murderers while on a camping trip in the woods.
Allow me to present to you the funniest comedy of the 2010’s that you never heard of. Shame on all of us for allowing this gem of a movie to slip through the cracks, for myself I only came across this film thanks to Comicbook19 who did a series of shows on the best films of the decade you missed. I was intrigued by her love for this film and to my amazement wasn’t hard to find as it was buried away on Netflix, having never appeared on any of my recommendations. It’s a shame on Netflix’s metric system as this proved to be one of the funniest films in ages.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil starts with the tropes of “horror in the woods” movies such as Deliverance and the Hills Have Eyes. The film begins with a group of college students going camping in the woods, who become unnerved by the attention of two “hillbillies” who they believe may stalking them. However when our perspective switches to the hillbillies, we learn the two are simply nice guys who are there on a fishing trip and to renovate a shack they have bought. Dale we find likes one of the girls and his friend Tucker is encouraging to go and introduce himself, however his social awkwardness makes his sweet attempts to talk to her been misunderstood as threatening. The film subverts the genre of the menacing Southern townfolks by making them down to earth nice guys and actually the victims of stereotyping and preconceptions.
When the students go skinny dipping at night one of the girls is knocked out and has to be saved by Tucker and Dale. However the other students take their frantic cries of “We have your friend,” as aggressive and assume they have attacked and kidnapped her. What follows is a series of calamitous accidents and misunderstandings, which make Tucker and Dale appear as killers while they think the students are taking part in a suicide pact.
Tucker and Dale is hilarious. Mishaps and circumstances contrive to feed the prejudices of the students, such as when Tucker is hassled by a swarm of bees while wielding a chainsaw making him from a distant reminiscent of Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Things really kick in when the students due to their own clumsy actions start to dispatch themselves in hysterical gory fashion (there is an amazing moment with a wood chipper).
For all the great comedy horror, what is really memorable is the likeability of Dale and Tucker. While there is a dumb and dumber vibe from their partnership they don’t have carry the annoying over the top baggage of those characters. The duo are more naive than stupid and their genuine good nature and desire for a simple life shines through. When the two start to bond with the injured student Allison, it does become quite heart warming, especially when she takes a shine to Dale.
When you consider that the God awful Grown Ups was the biggest comedy of 2010 it’s an eternal shame that Tucker and Dale vs Evil did not even bring in more than it’s $5 million budget. It’s way funnier than that star studded cast, and has tons more endearing heart. As a race of humans we are poorer for these choices that the cinema going public of 2010 made, therefore the only way to reverse the movie taste karma is to buy, stream or do whatever you have to in order to watch the gory but sweet weirdness of Tucker and Dale vs Evil.
Super (Director: James Gunn)
A troubled loner tries to become a real life superhero and embarks on a violent spree against his town’s criminal element.
At the start of the decade known as the 10’s, the superhero genre had made a sudden comeback. Marvel was releasing films that were taking half a billion world wide and were shockingly planning to saturate theatres by releasing two films in the same year. Releasing that this fad was destined to run it’s course and disappear really soon, studios were quick to rush out other comic book properties.
Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and Kick Ass were lively, colourful well received movies on this wave, however a smaller film also came out this year, which was unfairly excused because of it’s look of being a Kick Ass rip off.
Super was the second film to be directed by James Gunn, who here started his lucrative career as a master of the comic book genre. It shares obvious themes and story with Kick Ass, being an everyday man (played by Rain Wilson) who adopts a home made superhero costume and begins playing the role of a crime fighter. However Super is a much darker and sometimes disturbing take on the theme of masked vigilante.
In Super, Frank Darbo is a depressed loner, living a sparse existence after his drug addicted wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a bight club owner and crime boss (a very seedy Kevin Bacon). In his shattered mental state he believes he’s been given a mission from God to become the masked hero the Crimson Bolt and embarks on assaulting drug dealers and paedophiles with a wrench. However his instability also leads him to brutally beating one man purely for cutting line at a cinema (which would be ok with me frankly).
Although they share a common look and theme, Super has a more downbeat take on the costume vigilante than Kick Ass. Super shows the ridiculousness of the superhero concept and also the mental health issues which would probably plague an individual that actually tried to make the concept work in the real world. Darbo is frustrated, lonely and bullied by life, and losing his wife to a sleezeball who is obviously abusing her sends him over the edge. Despite the laughable costume and his early failed attempts to become a hero , Crimson Bolt becomes dangerously unhinged , mentally obsessive and his methods disturbingly violent.
Worryingly, his crusade earns him a sidekick in a young comic store clerk Libby played by Ellen Page. As “Boltie,” Libby proves just as dangerous and gleefully sadistic in the punishments she gives out. The relationship between the two takes an even darker turn when Libby wants to have sex with a reluctant Darbo and essentially forces herself on him.
Despite it’s darker elements Super does still provide a lot of fun. Crimson Bolt’s crusade of violence against the scum of his town is satisfyingly brutal, especially when he drops a breeze block from a fire escape onto a drug dealer (The Road Runner humour of this cracks me up for some reason). Then there’s the television show that inspires Darbo, an ultra christian super hero show with Nathan Fillion as the cheesy Holy Avenger, with James Gunn himself in a terrific turn playing the devil.
There’s a fair amount of gore too, with Gunn drawing on his apprenticeship for Troma, naturally the film includes a cameo from Lloyd Kaufman. While comic booky at times, the violence does hit the right tone shift from fun to disturbing when needed to be. This fits with the moral ambiguity of Darbo’s vigilantism (which frankly is something the film at least attempts more than the majority of superhero movies), which I’m sure if was made today would have accusations of “White rage,” fired upon it and probably Darbo being labelled an entitled Incel.
Super did not impress the majority of critics and in the face of a crowded season of comic book inspired movies, was relegated to being a cult curiosity. I found Super a lively romp, with a guilty edge to it and highlighted by a memorably wild turn from Ellen Page (Kevin Bacon also appears to be having a blast as the slimeball Jacques). While it’s full of brisk action, there is still a lot of heart to Darbo’s story and the ending is truly moving and a mix of uplifting, tinged with the bittersweet.
Legion (director: Scott Stewart)
An Angel comes to Earth to protect an unborn baby that may be the world’s last hope. But who is he saving the child from?
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the video store era (the “Mom and Pop” days not the Blockbuster era) but I’ve always had a soft spot for small budget action films with a B-Movie vibe and premise. If you were a moviegoer at the start of 2010 who found all the screenings to Avatar sold out, you had the option to check out the sort of film I’m talking about. A lively little movie that had an angel on a crusade with the help of a shit ton of machine guns, I mean really, what’s not to love?
Legion’s plot is heavily reminiscent (or ripoff if you prefer) of Terminator, even down to a few familiar beats of the theme music. A figure appears out of nowhere in a rainy alley, who after recovering heads for the nearest gunshop to get tooled up with as many guns and bullets as he can carry (along with a kickass long coat) and after acquiring a cop car heads off on his mission. It seems a waitress (like Sarah Connor) is pregnant with a child who can save the world from Armageddon, and the Archangel Michael (played by Paul Bettany, you know Vision) has come to Earth to save her from a army of supernatural beings that are intent of making sure he’s never born.
Except it’s not the forces of Satan that Michael is up against, but actual the Legions of God who are set on killing the waitress and the last hope of mankind with her. It seems that God has finally had enough of humanity (maybe the Republicans losing in 2009 was the last straw) and has decided to write us off as a bad job.
Michael tracks the unsuspecting waitress to a roadside Diner in the middle of nowhere, where along with the unfortunate patrons prepares for a siege against an army of Heaven, including a flesh eating Granny, a spooky Ice Cream truck driving demon and a hoard of possessed civilians . Amongst the patrons are familiar faces such as Dennis Quaid, Adrianne Palicki ( Agents of Shield and Friday Night Lights) and two Fast and Furious alumni.
Legion is an uncomplicated fun blast of a movie. It very much embraces it’s style over substance, which is entirely forgivable as Paul Bettany makes a badass steel eyed, two gun at the same time toting angel. It’s also recognisably derivative, as well as drawing on Terminator the siege aspect with diverse strangers holed up together is very reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead.
Naturally critics brutally trounced Legion, with even the horror dedicated websites turning their back on the film, leaving it with a horrific 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. One site’s review read ” If countless angles of people firing guns with spent shells clinking to the ground is all your heart yearns for, then Legion may be your ideal Saturday night. ” Well guess what fucker, sometimes that sounds like just the ticket for an action fan like me.
I personally enjoyed Legion, loved the mix of action and horror (the creepy cute six year old possessed by a demon trope never really fails) and the film plays it straight throughout. There are also some impressive visuals,in particular the whole scene with the arrival of the Angel Gabriel and the subsequent battle with Michael are very striking.
There are many, many other fine movies from 2010 that I could have included in this spot, as ones I found more worthwhile or even liked better. But something just draws me to highlight Legion, because maybe an Angel taking on the word of God with a bag full of weaponry goes perfectly with a few beers and pizza, and perhaps sometimes for a movie that’s just good enough.
WTF? Harry and Hermione have a dance and it’s awesome
While nothing can ever touch the Fast and Furious franchise for taking a batshit left turn from it’s original premise (try binge watching them to see how insane the saga develops), the eight Harry Potter movies change massively in tone along the way. While they started out as child friendly fun, by the time the saga reached part one of the Deathly Hallows a more mature and grim feel had taken over JK Rowling’s world.
When I saw this film in the theatre I was struck by how little it seemed to cater to younger audiences. It’s sometimes melodic pace, devoid of action for huge swathes of the movie and with an overriding grim hopelessness must have played havoc with little uns. Especially when the comforting friendship of Harry, Hermione and Ron fell apart before their eyes due to the pressure of life on the run in the wilderness, causing Ron to desert his friends and leave the two to themselves.
But it’s in this setting, Harry and Hermione worn out and full of nothing but disillusion that my absolute favourite moment in the Harry Potter films occurs. A scene that while the most moving I ever found from the world of Rowling, ironically never came from the mind of the original writer herself.
It’s all so simple. As a silent Harry and Hermione sit tired and dejected, the strains of O Children by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds filter through a crackling radio signal. Harry takes Hermione’s hand and the two friends, with an intensity that conjures goosebumps look into each other’s eyes and begin to dance.
What follows is jaw droppingly great. They swing together awkwardly, with Hermione seemingly reluctant to let herself go at first, but Harry’s persistence manages to draw out a smile and for a moment the duo’s despairs drift away. They laugh and have fun with silly dancing moves, until they slip into each others arms and hold each other in a truly tender moment. The chemistry between them is striking like lightening, building to them too staring into each other’s eyes, their faces close together in a haunting way that probably had hardened Potterheads going “What the Fuck???”
Not to run down the Harry Potter films (I actual like them a lot) but there is more genuine magic in this two minute scene than in the entirety of the rest of the saga. It’s so emotionally powerful, while being ambiguous in a way that can be unsettling or pleasing depending on your point of view. Is this simply a moment of two close friends comforting each other? Or is their more to that final lingering stare? Can you sense that there is something deeper they are both close to giving in to, realising there is something there but a disappointing acceptance that it should never be?
It’s an amazing scene, a gauntlet of emotions over a few minutes conveyed merely by silent gestures and expressions in a haunting and wonderful performance by both Radcliffe and Watson. In many ways it’s an isolated scene. The feelings which may or may not be on display here, could be major revelations about the characters and their relationship with each other. Yet there is no build to this scene, nor are it’s implications ever revisited.
As an audience we are left, like them with this one beautiful, intimate moment shared between two friends.
It’s a scene I’ve watched on it’s own many times, that gives me chills in all the good ways. And ultimately leaves me every time thinking, “how the hell could she still end up with the ginger haired twat after this scene?”
Til next time