By now I typically unveil my favorite movies from the first half of the year. Yet looking back on the first six months of 2010, only two films —Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 and Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop —have discerned themselves as unqualified contenders to make my year-end list. —-
That's not to say there haven't been strong movies so far this year, including several smaller-scale offerings: Bong Joon-Ho's Mother, Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, the Duplass brothers' Cyrus, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith's The Most Dangerous Man in the America, Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love, Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, Nicole Holofcener's Please Give come to mind. And add Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right, which opens this week, to that list.
The place we've really fallen short — more like a void of black-hole proportions — is at the multiplex, where only a handful of movies have even risen to the level of mediocrity.
Besides the aforementioned Toy Story 3, even the summer's more intriguing and/or entertaining multiplex fare — most prominently Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island and Christopher Nolan's Inception — weren't entirely satisfying for one reason or another. (Of course, maybe it's just me, a picky bastard who yearns for creativity and craft — no matter the genre, subject matter, budget or stylistic approach — above all else, two concerns that are not necessarily at the top of most Hollywood studios' list.)
Let's hope the second half of the year, a period in which studios typically save their more “prestigious” fare, yields far greater riches. It certainly can't get any worse. Can it?
CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE — There’s an inherent logistical problem when it takes almost 10 years for a studio to develop a sequel to a kid’s movie featuring live-action talking animals — the obviously young audience that initially flocked to theaters with parents in tow are now teenagers who are probably unlikely to be caught dead anywhere near such silly and childish fare. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) —tt stern-enzi (Rated PG.) Grade: F
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD —Zac Efron stars in this drama about a young man so overcome with grief when his younger brother dies that he takes a job in the cemetery where the brother is buried. Burr Steers, who must have liked what he saw of Efron in 17 Again, directs a movie that looks to be even further away in tone from his hilariously caustic 2002 comedy Igby Goes Down. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS — The reason to watch Dinner for Schmucks is to enjoy the off-kilter harmony of two great comedians (Steve Carell and Paul Rudd) working off one another in a vaudeville style that is just as fresh today as when Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis did it decades ago. Here's one Hollywood comedy that actually makes you laugh. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT — For a film about an unconventional family, writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right effectively twists the dynamics in ways both obvious and subtle. Stars Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tts (Rated R.) Grade: A