1) The Bourne Ultimatum
I'm not sure, in the grand scheme of things, how good this movie actually is. But I can tell you that I thought it was a fitting ending to the Bourne trilogy (please don't let there be a fourth). He finds out what he has been looking for. Good triumphs over evil. The awesome ending, coming nicely full-circle, where his body starts moving as the Moby song comes up. It also has one of my favorite action scenes (in an action movie) of the decade-that ridiculous bike chase/rooftop chase/to awesome fight scene where there is just incidental noise-after he hops through a window to get to the bad guy. Amazing stuff here. And the mystery unraveling keeps you going. Paul Greengrass might be the best action director of the decade.
2) Grindhouse (Planet Terror/Death Proof)
Yeah I choose the whole enchilada-"The Grindhouse Experience"-so to speak. Fake trailers and all. To be honest it is probably because this might be the most fun I had in a theater that year. Sure, objectively speaking Death Proof is the better movie-Kurt Russell is awesome, to be sure. But I think it might be the weakest in the Tarantino canon, Like I said, its not bad, and its definitely enjoyable enough-but its not great. Its too slow by half-the dialogue isn't half as good as it is in the other of his talky movies like Kill Bill Vol. 2 or Inglourious Basterds , and besides Eli Roth (please stop hiring him as an actor) Tracie Thoms is not very good-and I can't tell if it just her or her dialogue. But there are gems in here, to be sure. It sounds like I hated it but I didn't, I just don't think he knocked it out of the park. I feel like Robert Rodriquez's half gets unfairly maligned where I think he just gave himself over to the silly grindhouse aesthetic maybe a little more. Some might say too much-but I thought his part was fun, and I thought the casting was too: Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, and Jeff Fahey being particularly fun. I dunno, I think the whole is greater than its two parts. I mean you probably can't recreate the first time again on home video, and the longer version of Death Proof fills in the gaps a bit. But all in all, I have to go with the whole experience taken together as just an all around fun movie experience.
3) Hot Fuzz
Just an excellent parody of cop movie cliches, all around. I wonder if Edgar Winter, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost movies are going to always end up in my top ten for the year? If they are this good they will. Not only are Pegg and Frost awesome as the cops trying to solve some mysterious murders in a small town, but the cast is absolutely stacked with the likes of Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine (particularly great), Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward (in one of his final roles), and even Paul Freeman and Timothy Dalton. They stay just on the right side parody as they ape some of the, lets say, louder aspects of big 80's action cop movies. The shootout in the grocery story is a particular favorite of mine. Fun, fun stuff.
Tragically overlooked horror movie. Sam Rockwell and Jacob Krogan as the titular character are so good. They found the perfect kid to portray the malevolent, Joshua. Its so creepy, you never quite know when or even why Joshua is going to do something. It would seem that he starts acting out because there is a new baby in the house and he is no longer the center of attention. But, and the film isn't explicit here, we start to realize there is much more going on here. It takes a domestic horror movie, without anything really supernatural going on here, and focuses on a father, who should really be able to outwit a little boy, and his troubles, not knowing exactly what to do as his life falls apart around him. Is it all because of Joshua? Or is it all in his head? Does Joshua really know more of what he is doing than he lets on. It keeps you guessing, and its really creepy.
5) Knocked Up
I feel like because of Katherine Heigel being weird, this was unfairly maligned with charges of sexism. I don't think the movie is sexist, I suppose on some level it offers a more conservative reading because the abortion option is only brought up once and never actually mentioned by name. But, thats not the movie Judd Apatow was trying to make. And in the end, he made a film that was actually about a few different things: a time when a man-child needs to grow up, and also it is about relationships: mostly changing relationships-what happens when we grow up and our relationships with friends are forced to change. And especially what can we do when forced, at first, into a relationship by extraordinary circumstances. The answers might be too pat in the end, for some, and to a degree I might agree, but I think it is both as funny and as heartfelt as anything Apatow has delivered before. Seth Rogen is great, as is Jay Baruchel, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, even Katherine Heigel, who I don't think of too often in general. Apatow has this amazing way of creating all these endearing characters, and making it work in the end. And, also, for making the journey very very funny.
6) Michael Clayton
I have to admit, they just don't make these sorts of adult dramas anymore. Tony Gilroy and George Clooney are just clicking on all cylinders here. As the man whose life seems to be spiraling out of control, both because of things he has done and things he is trying to do. I like how it evokes that sort of underground New York nightlife that a lot of us (most of us) don't have any access too, in the card games in back of restaurants and the backdoor shenanigans at lawyer's offices and big business. They do it all here, and the final reveal how Clayton manages to turn the table is just awesome.
7) No Country For Old Men
Javier Bardem plays a human Predator here, a force of nature that seems like it can't be stopped, can't be killed, and plays by its own very strict set of moral guidelines. He is chasing Josh Brolin around the Southwest, all for a suitcase full of cash that Brolin happened upon. While Tommy Lee Jones stands off to the side as the older man, who is being passed by by this newer, brutal world. It is absolutely amazing to me that the Coens can followup two goofy movies like Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers with this semi-surreal tension delivery system. Its really an amazing feat what they were able to do with Cormac McCarthy's sparse source material. And it should really be shown as example of why they are masters at their craft, both in writing and the actual filming/look of the film.
I have to admit I am a sucker for a couple things: 1) a well-done buddy/relationship movie where two (or three) friends grow closer to one another as they have to move a part and 2) a well-done "last night" movie where its the last night of school or a graduation party-and the main characters have to go through a series of trials to ultimately make it to said destination. When done badly, like any other bad movie, its bad. When done well, and the pieces fit, then, well, its great. And Superbad to me, is pretty great. It works all these elements well, with Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen working a script thats very much in the Apatowian vein. It definitely taps into Rogen's twin obsessions of male best friends and of growing up. Speaking of which Seth Rogen and Bill Hader's turn as the cops that follow the action all night are pretty great. Is it the greatest and most original movie ever made: probably not. But it works for me. Greg Mottola's vision probably works a little better when it hits more close to home ( Adventureland) but it works well here. I don't know why, maybe its having friend spread out all over the place, but two guys reasserting their friendship to one another just works for me. Speaking of which, Michael Cera is also good here. And, as usual, Kevin Corrigan plays a good scumbag. Also, the soundtrack is great.
9) There Will Be Blood
In the end, this movie is really enigma. A beautiful enigma, but an enigma nonetheless. It has similar strengths to Brokeback Mountain where it adapts a smallish part of an Upton Sinclair novel, and is able to reveal and revel in the passage of time. Especially as it wears on for Daniel Day Lewis' oilman, in a titanic performance, as the ruthless oilman who gains everything and loses his soul. Its an indictment of unchecked capitalism, as well as a character study of someone whose lust for money has absolutely no boundaries. It is different from anything else Paul Thomas Anderson has done, it is both epic and intimate in its scope. It really is a remarkable achievement. One that looks amazing. The score for the film is one of the best of the year, if not the decade.
Another film about time and obsession. This time, though the obsession isn't with money. (Obviously) Its about the few people who become obsessed with finding the still-mysterious Bay Area serial killer. It starts off with an amazing setpiece, the first murder, set to "Hurdy Gurdy Man"-it starts off, seemingly as a look at a specific time period where the Bay Area is gripped with fear over the murders. But it becomes even more fascinating as the case goes cold and only a few obsessives keep trying to solve it, and just won't let it go. Its an obsessive movie about the nature of obsession. And I will go out on a limb and say its probably David Fincher's best movie.