Here’s what 2010 was missing: summer.
Usually, you get summer and you get some big movie fun — you get the rebirth of Star Trek or a totally dark and awesome The Dark Knight or a stand-up-and-cheer-worthy Iron Man. This summer, we had the ho-hum Iron Man 2, the bleak Robin Hood, the fourth Shrek, the second Sex and the City — it was, inside the theater, like that one year (outside the theater) where it rained from April through August and then got cold. So minus a summer with at least three or four big, fun popcorn movies, we seemed to have never-ending March and September. That means it was a year all about Clash of the Titans and Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Those will be the movies — or if not the movies themselves the general feelings of malaise the movies generated — that the year will be remembered for, even though there were some solid documentaries, horror films and dramas. And this may actually be one of the best years in recent memory for family films — whether it’s animation (the strongest category in the recently released Golden Globe movie-related nominations) or live action or general audience movies that are appropriate for the 8-and-older crowd. The big disappointment was those movies that should have provided the wow factor.
Here’s a look at 2010 in movies.
Best horror movie: Paranormal Activity 2 Never has a well-lit suburban McMansion seemed so scary. And sure, we saw most of this the first time around, but 2 still pulled off nice creep-outs.
Worst horror movie: Devil You know that the devil’s in the room when the toast falls jelly-side down… that is the main thing I remember from this weak, cheesy entry from M. Night Shyamalan.
Best use of non-sparkly vampires: Let Me In Even after all the Twilight and the True Blood, the vampire juggernaut kept on rolling. Let Me In, the American adaptation of Let the Right One In, returned the creepy evil to this movie monster.
Worst use of non-sparkly vampires: Daybreakers Ethan Hawke, you are too old to be a hot vampire.
Best use of 3-D: Hubble 3D The made-for-IMAX movies don’t get much love, but this movie about a trip to fix the Hubble (and full of images of space, including images from the edge of the observable universe — the edge of the observable universe!) was awe-inspiring and worth twice its ticket price.
Worst use of 3-D: Piranha 3D This movie brought up a particular problem with 3-D — it’s dark. The movie featured interchangeable hot girls getting eaten in the piranha-infected lake. But if that’s your flavor of cheese, what fun is it squinting to make out the action in the murk?
Most satisfying big 3-D extravaganza: TRON: Legacy This big nonsensical sequel to the nearly 30-year-old movie had popcorn fun in the style of a summer movie. The effects were part of the movie’s grandiosity and its charm.
Most disappointing big 3-D extravaganza: Alice in Wonderland As Johnny Depp’s character said of the movie’s nearly-grown Alice, this movie should have been much more muchier — it quickly lost its muchness.
Delicious girly junk food: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse One boyfriend is dipped in glitter, one boyfriend never wears a shirt — this movie is a giddy squeal come alive.
Comfort food gone rancid: Sex and the City 2 When the movie exhausts its attempts to fakey up a story out of characters who have no story left in them, it whisks us away to an Epcot version of the Middle East for some cultural tone-deafness. Oh, but with shoes!
Best romantic comedy: Going the Distance I not only “didn’t hate” this Drew Barrymore/Justin Long rom-com, I actually liked it, laughing and giving a damn about the characters. Is it entirely because of the rated-R swearing?
Worst romantic comedy: Everything else. Perhaps the swearing was the secret. Or perhaps it’s one of those thousand-monkeys-typing-on-a-thousand-typewriters things, where eventually we were bound to trip into a good romantic comedy. Whatever it was, Going the Distance wasn’t just the best romantic comedy of the year, it was perhaps the only one worth watching.
Best action movie: Unstoppable Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are going to Stop. That. Train. Dun dun dun! in this wonderfully over-the-top runaway train action movie.
Worst action movie: Knight and Day Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz stumble through this strange and clunky movie about a woman being saved/stalked by a rogue spy.
Best movie about the medical community: It’s Kind of a Funny Story Mental health issues aren’t usually the foundation on which big guffaws are built, but It’s Kind of a Funny Story manages to be sweet and funny and even have a nice “It gets better”-ish message.
Worst movie about the medical community: Extraordinary Measures Harrison Ford plays a doctor but his grimness makes you feel flu-ish.
Best cheesy gratuitous violence movie: Machete The Danny Trejo vehicle based on a fake trailer in the Grindhouse movies was a Mexican-flavored delight full of butt-kicking (often delivered by Jessica Alba or Michelle Rodriguez), operatic gunfights and oodles of wacky cameos (Robert De Niro? Lindsay Lohan? Dios mio!).
Worst cheesy gratuitous violence movie: Faster Dwayne Johnson has the lead but almost no lines in this strange and ultimately kind of plodding revenge movie.
Best guy doing the performances he does best movie: The King’s Speech Colin Firth deserves an Oscar already — last year’s A Single Man proved that. But since that one was all sewn up for Jeff Bridges, this year’s performance as a stammering King George VI will do just fine as Oscar bait. He is moving and funny under all that stiff fancy costuming.
Worst guy doing the performances he does best movie: The American I heart George Clooney too but his cold, worried performance here did nothing to help this pretty-looking but hard-core snooze of a movie.
Movie with scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-your-kid moments that are worth it: Toy Story 3 Don’t get me wrong, I loved this movie but it is full of toys-in-peril moments that make you want to find and hug your favorite childhood teddy bear.
Movie with scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-your-kid moments that are not: The Nutcracker in 3D This movie also put toys in peril but without any of the emotional heft of Toy Story 3 and in a much cheaper, more cloying way for absolutely no payout.
Best family movie: The Karate Kid Will Smith’s son learns kung fu and valuable life lessons from Jackie Chan in this remake that is energetic and an all-around good time.
Worst family movie: Furry Vengeance Brendan Fraser vs. angry woodland animals. Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they can’t annoy.
Movies that were not the best anything but are worth Netflixing/iTunes-ing/Red Box-ing/whatever sometime soon:
Fair Game — Ignore Sean Penn and keep your eyes on Naomi Watts in this movie version of the Valerie Plame story.
Buried — Who knew Ryan Reynolds could carry a whole movie (with no flashbacks — ahem, James Franco)?
Nowhere Boy — John Lennon, the early years.
MacGruber — This SNL-sketch-borne riff on 1980s action movies and TV is goofy, stupid fun.
The Social Network — Great! An Aaron Sorkin movie. Also, great, an Aaron Sorkin movie.
Waiting for “Superman” — Not a perfect documentary, but an interesting look at the American education system and a fun new problem to get furious about.
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer — Sure, the sex scandal gets top billing, but this documentary also features a good amount of talk about the financial crisis and its causes as well as — props to him — an interview with Spitzer himself.