So keep in mind that my movie picks will leave out a lot of movies that I either didn't see, or just didn't like that much. Maybe I preferred a movie which even I recognize is less than stellar, but that's just how it goes. These are my favorite movies, not necessarily the movies I think are the best.
1. The Town
Ben Affleck's most recent directorial effort also wins my vote for best film of the year. It's the best crime drama since Heat in my opinion, and features knockout performances by all involved. There were some, myself included, who didn't believe Affleck could act at all, much less turn in this kind of performance. It's a solid drama, it's a solid action flick...basically it's a stellar movie.
This is just about the only movie I've seen that I can stand Leonardo DiCaprio in. Christopher Nolan turns in a mind-bending trip of an action flick that poses deep philosophical questions about reality and perception, doesn't cheat the laws of physics (as one of my friends points out, the theory of Special Relativity is the solution to one of the problems in the movie), and gleefully pays homage to every heist movie and James Bond picture ever along the way. A guaranteed good time, if you have even half a brain.
3. Let me in
This was Chloe Moretz's year. Not only did the pint-sized powerhouse bring the funny in one of my other top picks, but in this particular movie she was the most terrifying little girl who ever lived. Matt Reeves's re-imagining of the Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One in is almost shot for shot like the original, yet somehow he has completely changed the tone. The original was all about alienation and connection. The American version is all about evil and seduction, hidden away in a love story, your average "boy meets vampire" tale. If you say you don't like vampire movies, give this one a whirl and see what you think.
4. True Grit
Jeff Bridges is not John Wayne. Once we get that out of the way, it is possible to take the Coen Brothers' reinterpretation of Charles Portis's novel at face value. It's a bleak story about revenge at the edge of American civilization, all delivered with a bitingly witty, pitch-black script. In addition to the writing, the movie is also carried by the performances, especially Matt Damon as the pompous Texas Ranger and Hailee Steinfeld's firecracker line delivery. However, as with the original, Rooster Cogburn carries the show, and in Jeff Bridges' hands he convincingly transitions back and forth between drunken sot and steely eyed killer. An excellent entry into the Coens' resume.
Who hasn't wanted to be a superhero? Who doesn't know that trying that crap in real life would get your ass kicked? Now who out there doesn't give a damn? These guys. Kick Ass is not the best movie of the year, but it is probably the most unapologetically entertaining. Crass, profane, and gory, it's a nonstop barrage of gnarly visuals and funny dialogue. Chloe Moretz pops up again, this time ditching subtlety as the most foul-mouthed twelve-year-old you've ever seen. Oh, and she kills somewhere around a million people. It's a cheerful and irreverent romp that oddly seems to only appeal to young men in their early twenties.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim is kind of like the version of Kick-Ass you show your parents. It's a hip, incredibly funny visual treat that blends lovelorn romantic comedies, old-school video games, kung-fu flicks, and comic-book imagery for an utterly unique movie experience. Slacker bassist Scott Pilgrim must battle seven evil ex-lovers to win over the lovely Ramona, and each battle unfolds in a unique, video-game style boss-battle that will have you, if not laughing, at least grinning happily. It's a crowd-pleaser, and not like any you've seen before.
The Expendables wishes it was this good. The trailers weren't that special, so it was a huge surprise when RED turned out to be a blast. It's terrifically funny, it has action scenes that put most serious movies to shame, and it has a bona fide a-lister cast giving it their all. If you can go see this movie and not have a good time, I don't want to know you.
It's a claustrophobic thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. And in the tradition of all Shyamalan's films (he only produced, he did not direct this one), it's jam packed with religious and philosophical resonance that shines through the horror movie trappings. Excellent performances from a cast of relative unknowns helps this movie rise above its humble roots. Hands down one of the best horror movies of the year.
9. The Losers
It's funny, it's hip, it's definitely too cool for school, and it has amazing action sequences. It was kind of the under dog of action films this year, but The Losers hit all the right buttons as a conspiracy thriller that didn't take itself too serious. Chris Evans proves again that he should be a star, and Zoe Saldana is probably one of the prettiest women in the world. And you'll never hear "Don't stop believing" the same way again.
10. Piranha 3D
In a year of serious, thoughtful horror films, goremeister Alexandre Aja decided that maybe it was time to get schlocky. Working with a perfectly sound plot, he delivered nudity, gore, and jump scares in spades. If you are a horror fan, you will like this movie, no matter how much you want to disapprove. It's guaranteed.