10. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
I never imagined this film sniffing my top 10 list prior to seeing it, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t give it the credit it deserves for being one hell of a good time. Fueled by Brad Bird’s direction, “Ghost Protocol” is one of the best flicks that’s taken advantage of IMAX technology to date, not only making it a sight for sore eyes, but also one of the rare big-budget action films that is super fun without ever succumbing to overwhelming stupidity.
9. “The Tree of Life”
I can see “The Tree of Life” being one of those films that will appreciate as time wears on, simply because there’s so much ambiguity about it that there’s plenty to talk about. Terrence Malick’s juxtaposition of the life of a quaint Southern family against the evolution of the universe is interesting, to put it lightly, even though the film does, at times, get a little bogged down and aimless.
8. “Attack the Block”
If I had to describe “Attack the Block,” I’d call it a harder, British version of “Super 8.” A young British gang is at the center of an alien invasion of London, and when these gorilla-like creatures with glow-in-the-dark teeth start picking people off, blood reigns. Well, it’s not that graphic, but it is a fun, charming watch nonetheless.
A guy gets cancer. So what? “50/50” doesn’t present a particularly new take on coping with getting that news, but it does provide great performances turned in by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick that more than make up for the fact that the film doesn’t really even have a point.
I’d heard folks compare “Bridesmaids” to “The Hangover,” and what an unfair comparison that ended up being. Kristen Wiig (with the aid of Melissa McCarthy) leads a charming and utterly hysterical effort in the year’s best comedy and helps to dispel the notion that the ladies aren’t as funny as dudes.
5. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
When it comes to murder and torture, seemingly nobody does it better — in the film world, that is — than David Fincher. Based on the Swedish book of the same name, “Dragon Tattoo,” while certainly not a feel-good film by any means, is a visceral take on its source material, led by a gripping performance by Rooney Mara that should garner her some serious award consideration.
It’s hard for me to fall in love with sports films, mostly because many of them are cheesy and overblown. “Moneyball” isn’t that. Led by Brad Pitt’s commanding performance as the general manager of the Oakland A’s, this well-crafted behind-the-scenes look into the team’s unusual strategy for building a successful baseball team is the new crème de la crème of sports flicks.
3. “Midnight in Paris”
Storytelling is seemingly a lost art, so when a film such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” comes along, it’s to be cherished. In fact, it might also be one of the rare, truly great films made more by the performances of its supporting cast than its lead, Owen Wilson, which is a real testament to how well-rounded of a film it is. Plus, anyone who likes surrealist jokes will love Allen’s portrayal of Salvador Dali.
2. “The Muppets”
There are few greater things than taking in a movie that restores my hope that humanity is capable of creating something truly beautiful. “The Muppets” does just that. Wondrously charming and backed by a super fun soundtrack, “The Muppets” is not only a welcome piece of nostalgia for fans, but also a perfect opportunity to initiate a new generation to these fuzzy friends.
It’s easy to be disheartened by the state of action films these days; they’re as big, dumb and derivative as ever. That’s not the case with “Drive,” director Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish action-thriller starring Ryan Gosling. “Drive” isn’t great because it’s attempting to be a high-brow, looking-down-its-nose entry into action but because it’s the sum of several exceptionally well-made parts: Its pulsing score, retro feel and campy violence make “Drive” the kind of serial fun that most action flicks should strive for.