127 Hours

It’s hard to think of a movie in recent years with a bigger marketing problem than Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. If you know anything at all about this film, you know it depicts the true story of an adventurer named Aron Ralston who finds himself pinned by a rock in a Utah canyon and has to cut off his own arm to escape.

So here’s a film that spends most of its running time with a single character at the bottom of a dimly lit canyon and builds to a horrific scene of self-amputation.

Good times!

But somehow 127 Hours is neither boring nor grueling — on the contrary, it’s one of the most exhilarating and life-affirming films I’ve seen in years.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

When I first heard that the filmed version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the final installment of the hugely popular series of books about everybody’s favorite boy wizard — would be split into two chapters, I had two thoughts.

One, the film was clearly in need of an editor. The book didn’t run much longer than any of the other books in the series, and Hollywood managed to make entertaining and comprehensible films out of those tomes. And two, the producers were trying to milk this juggernaut for every dime they could get.

But after seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, I’ve completely changed my tune. I believe this is one of the best chapters yet — rivaled only by the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which had both director Alfonsa Cuaron and a thrilling time-travel plot line going for it).

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The Social Network

The Social Network is a brilliant movie — expertly crafted down to the smallest detail, flawlessly acted, easily one of the best films of the year. And yet I feel like some of the effusive praise of the film is seeing something that isn’t there.

The film, which explores the cutthroat dynamics behind the conception, creation and explosion of Facebook, does not set out to make a grand statement about the way people communicate in the 21st century. I’ve read a lot of commentary about the irony of a borderline anti-social person creating the ultimate social community, but I didn’t see that on the screen. This film could have been about the creation of anything… Facebook is entirely beside the point.

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The Town

Throughout my filmgoing life, one fact has held true no matter how much else has changed: I love crime movies. From the classic 70s genre flicks to the latest and greatest (which invariably copy those classic 70s genre flicks), I’m in heaven watching cops and robbers onscreen.

The best films in the genre number among my favorite films of all time — The Godfather, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Miller’s Crossing, Out of Sight and Miami Blues, to name a few. But even those that fall short of classic have littered my top ten lists for decades — films such as L.A. Confidential, Shaft, True Romance, The Usual Suspects, The Departed and Gone Baby Gone.

Add The Town to that second list, and add Ben Affleck to the list of directors who know how to knock this material out of the park. Affleck, long an unfairly maligned actor, has emerged as an expert director of modern film noir.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the most comic book-y comic book movie I’ve ever seen. Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) uses every trick in the book to make the screen come alive with BOOM! POW! WHAM! awesomeness.

Few moments in film this year have packed the exhilarating punch of the scenes where bassist Scott Pilgrim and his band mates tear into some garage band grunge and the room literally quivers with visible electricity.

Wright is working with an audio-visual palette that feels brand-new and award-worthy. It’s not often I watch a film that seems like the first of its kind, but this one does.

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