15. Orphan. Here is a movie that truly caught me off-guard. I went in expecting another evil kid movie and was treated to something else. Orphan takes us inside a family on the brink of implosion. All it needs is a little push from the outside to send the house of cards tumbling. We are given a fresh take on familiar material. It draws you in and makes you wonder just what is going to happen and when it does it completely knocks you for a loop. On top of all that young Isabelle Fuhrman turns in an amazing performance that drips with evil. This is a keeper.
16. The Hangover. Did anyone see this coming? After the Apatow style of comedy has all but taken over the R-rated comedy field, I thought it would be awhile before another filmmaker had a positive impact on the genre. Well, this past summer brought a mash-up of the buddy comedy and the mystery genre and completely knocked it out of the park. The cast is funny, the pace never lets up, and it is actually involving. It is also laugh out loud hilarious.
17. Public Enemies. This movie is a cross between a mainstream picture and an arthouse film, "John Dillinger - The Man Behind the Myth," if you were. It has the big name stars, it has the big name performances, but it also refuses to follow mainstream movie conventions. Michael Mann tells the story on its own terms. The film is meticulously crafted, showing only what needs to be seen. There are no overtones of niceties: John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is never made out to be a nice guy, or a good guy, and the same goes for Agent Purvis (Christian Bale). It is rather refreshing to see a movie portray characters in a way that seems real rather "movie real."
18. Zombieland. The film comes out firing on all cylinders and does not let up until its all-too-soon conclusion. There is a scant 80 minutes in this movie from opening frame to final credit, a fact that had me a little worried. It's not that a short movie can't be good, but it may not have enough time to develop properly. This film is not held back by its run time; it still manages to cram in a ton of laughs and zombie action and still have room for genuine heart and character. Sure, they may be a little ridiculous, but they are real for this world, which is not meant to be ours. Zombieland is a simple movie. It takes over the top personalities, puts them in an over the top situation, and lets the fun ensue. It is not a serious movie, it is not intended to be, but it is not a joke. The movie sets up its universe, makes its rules, and then it plays by them. It is a great union of blood, buddy comedy, and heart. What's not to love?
19. Paranormal Activity. The little movie that could. The movie that shows that the less you show, the more frightening it can be. Yes, it is a love/hate sort of film, but if you love it, you know why. There is a delicious slow burn quality that got me on the edge of my seat. Not much happens, but the things that do will forever change the way you listen to your house settle. It left me shaken and silent. It is that good.