10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Adapted from the beloved children's book by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a marvelously witty and whimsical animated adventure. The story follows
the life of a wild, young fox, who seeks one last adventure before settling down into family life and adult responsibility. Unfortunately, this last
hurrah consists of three raids against some of the meanest farmers in town: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. And eventually sucks all of Mr. Fox's friends and
family into the fray, willing or not. Directed by Wes Anderson, who crafted such quirky films as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic,
Fantastic Mr. Fox represents a milestone in animation. Incorporating well over 530 puppets with stop-motion capture and high resolution
cinematography, the film is a wonder to behold - an imaginative, fanciful tale for the whole family to enjoy.
9. Star Trek
Boldly going where no Star Trek film has gone before, director J.J. Abrams, known for thrilling episodic television
series like Lost, Fringe, and Alias, revives the classic science fiction franchise on the big screen with origins
of the original crew. The early days at Starfleet. Kirk's tumultuous relationship with Spock. And the assembly of
the Enterprise crew. Tormenting and testing the rookie crew this go around is Nero, a Romulan captain who
travels back in time to destroy the United Federation of Planets. Although plot and logistics frequently get muddied,
the casting is near perfection. In particular, Zachary Quinto, who effortlessly juggles between emotion and logic as
Spock, the half human, half Vulcan First Officer. And it makes this Trek, mixing warp speed action with tongue in cheek
humor, beam brighter than a supernova.
Nearly 12 years after the worldwide success of Titanic comes Avatar, the latest technological masterpiece from James
Cameron. Incorporating 3D, IMAX, and cutting edge CGI, the film transports viewers to the world of Pandora, inhabited by the
10 foot tall blue natives known as the Na'vi. And the Earthlings and marines who find themselves at odds with the Na'vi over
the planet's natural resources. Although the story itself is nothing new, a tried and true formula about the conquest of
civilizations, the impact of technology, and the importance of environmentalism, the presentation is a glorious immersion
into a fantastic and exciting new world. With breathtaking dragon flights, floating islands in the clouds, and a series of
new creatures and new life, the film is an exploration and "experience" unlike any other.
7. An Education
From the director of Italian for Beginners and Just Like Home comes a carefully nuanced tale of a sixteen year old
Londoner in pursuit of a higher education at Oxford. While finishing up her final year of high school studies, she encounters
David Goldman, a man twice her age, who takes her on a slight detour - a lesson in real life. Starring breakout sensation, Carrie
Mulligan, and a delightful supporting cast in Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and Olivia Williams, An Education is subtle and
sophisticated. Set in 1960's London, the film incorporates beautiful aesthetics in production design and wardrobe with a seductive
score. Written cleverly for screen by Nick Hornby, the film is a charming, dramatic escape.
6. This Is It
Forget what you know about Michael Jackson's personal troubles - his addiction to pain medication, the peter pan
complex, allegations of child abuse, etc. This film is not an inquisition; but rather, a celebration of one of the
greatest entertainers of our time. Pieced together by Kenny Ortega, the film is a behind the scenes look at what was
to be Jackson's final tour - 30 sold out concerts in London over the summer of 2009. Sadly, Michael passed away the week
before the first show. And it makes This Is It! all the more bittersweet - a fitting tribute to the King of Pop, from
the dance rehearsals to the stage designs and wardrobe to the musical performances. A truly remarkable documentary that
shows Michael Jackson as the world ambassador and masterful showman we most want to remember.
Everyone always gripes about how Pixar dominates animated features year after year. But the fact of the matter is that
Pixar dominates because they are master storytellers first and master animators second - a secret that very few studios
realize. Up exemplifies this point precisely. Forced to surrender his home to a development group, retired salesman Carl
Fredrickson usurps authorities by using thousands of balloons to lift his house upward and float to South America, where
his longtime love, Ellie, always dreamed of going. In addition to colorful animation and uplifting cinematic moments, the
film nurtures its characters; in particular, the blossoming relationship between a widowed old man and a young boy scout. But
it's the story that really hooks you - a personal tale of love and loss that will go straight to your heart.
4. Crazy Heart
"This ain't no place for the weary kind," writes Bad Blake, the central character in Crazy Heart. In what many are
calling this year's version of The Wrestler, Jeff Bridges delivers an Oscar worthy performance as a washed up musician
trying to get it right. And there are no smoke and mirrors here. As a lifelong musician in real life, Bridges sings and
plays each of the songs flawlessly. It's the role he was meant to play. Along for the ride are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin
Farrell, and Robert Duvall - all wonderfully supportive in this beautiful ballad about life, love, and musicianship.
3. Inglourious Basterds
World War II history according to Quentin Tarantino. And what a glorious lesson it is! After watching her family gunned
down by Gestapo police in Nazi occupied France, Jewish born escapee Shosanna Dreyfus plots revenge against those responsible
by hosting a German movie premiere. The premiere entices the 'Basterds,' a group of Jewish-American guerillas led by the
vindictive Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who are hell bent on exterminating the Nazi attendees. A cumulative effort of
everything Tarantino, the film exudes an exquisite attention to detail, a delicious repartee between characters, cultish
music and mayhem, unexpected plot twists, and a splash of violence. While the cast is equally superb, it is relative
unknown, Christoph Waltz, who steals the show as Colonel Hans Landa, the devilishly sadistic German investigator.
2. The Hurt Locker
The opening quote says it all: "War is a drug." While many soldiers see war as a means to an end, others like Sergeant James,
played by Jeremy Renner, see it as an addiction. Working in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, James is part of an
elite and highly trained bomb disposal unit, venturing off into the middle of combat zones and defusing any number of charges
left in vehicles, villages, and urban landscapes. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker is an extremely well crafted
thriller. Full of heart pounding action and situational drama, Bigelow amps up the intensity meter with some of the most realistic
combat scenes imaginable. All in an effort to show the varying degrees of heroism in the line of fire. This is one of the finest war
films in recent memory.
Precious is the most powerful and most poignant film of the year. With a terrific ensemble performance from Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique,
Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and others, the film delivers its coming-of-age story tenfold. Executive produced by Tyler Perry and Oprah
Winfrey, this film might be mistaken for a cheerful fairy tale. Or a Madea family picnic. But it's neither. Under the meticulous
direction of Lee Daniels, the film drops us into the hard knock life of Claireece "Precious" Jones, a Harlem teenager who is abused
by her mother, raped by her father, and forced to live her life virtually unnoticed. Through music and nuance, Daniels sets the
tone, letting the truth and inner beauty of his characters shine. After all, this is life at its most honest, most cruel, most
vulnerable, and most imperfect states. So pure is it that by the film's end, we realize what is most precious.