The year 2010 proved to be a lackluster one for Hollywood. So, although tradition -- or at least a custom dating back to 1965 -- calls on the Media Review Office of Catholic News Service to select its top 10 movie picks annually, readers should bear in mind that only a few of the films below are likely to stand the test of time as significant contributions to the medium.
Since a majority of the entries in the overall top 10 may be classified for adults only -- as is the case for the year just passed -- recently the office has also compiled a list of the 10 best family-friendly movies.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the office's general choices:
Director Rob Reiner's heartwarming coming-of-age story "Flipped" chronicles the relationship of two kids (Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe) over a six-year period in the late 1950s. Amid the ups and downs of their friendship, the film examines family life in baby boom-era suburbia, challenging stereotypes and prejudices with a surprisingly strong pro-life message (A-III, PG).
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," the penultimate film in the wildly successful franchise, finds the Hogwarts trio -- played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint -- on the run. Director David Yates' adventure offers lessons about perseverance, loyalty, friendship and self-sacrifice as it builds to a cliffhanger climax (A-III, PG-13).
Writer-director Christopher Nolan achieves a tour de force of spectacle and suspense with the ingenious sci-fi brainteaser "Inception." Though rife with explosions and gunplay, his crafty action tale -- which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a corporate spy -- makes for an intriguing cinematic Rubik's Cube (A-III, PG-13).
"The King's Speech," is a stirring historical drama about the unlikely but fruitful relationship between the future King George VI (Colin Firth) and the eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) under whose care he reluctantly places himself to overcome his stammer. Director Tom Hooper creates a luminous tapestry reinforced by finely spun performances (A-III, R).
The surprisingly philosophical nature documentary "Oceans" offers stunning images of sea life from around the globe while conveying a positive message about the need for environmental conservation. Actor Pierce Brosnan intones pleasing narration for co-directors and writers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, whose film -- despite a few shortcomings -- constitutes a visual feast (A-I, G).
"Secretariat," the true story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, is both a thrilling sports adventure and a moving family drama. Diane Lane plays a housewife who returns to her horse-farm roots and gambles everything on the big red equine. Director Randall Wallace's exuberant and inspirational cinematic champ can be cheered on by a wide audience (A-II, PG).
An engrossing but strictly adult drama, "The Social Network" recounts the circumstances surrounding the creation of the website Facebook as its socially inept yet technically gifted founder (Jesse Eisenberg) testifies in two separate but simultaneous lawsuits brought against him. Director David Fincher weaves a subtle narrative of shifting personal loyalties and ethical uncertainties (A-III, PG-13).
In "The Tourist," a flirtatious encounter with an elegant, mysterious fellow passenger (Angelina Jolie) on a train to Venice leads a vacationing American math teacher (Johnny Depp) to be mistaken for a fugitive embezzler. Director and co-writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck constructs an enjoyably old-fashioned romantic thriller, with the leads showing amorous restraint and La Serenissima providing the colorful backdrop for a pleasant diversion (A-III, PG-13).
"True Grit," is an exceptionally fine narrative of the Old West in which a determined 14-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) enlists the aid of a broken-down but resourceful U.S. marshal (Jeff Bridges) and a cocksure Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) in her relentless quest to bring her recently murdered father's killer (Josh Brolin) to account. Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen's captivating drama reflects seriously on the violent undertow of frontier life (A-III, PG-13).
The poignant yet challenging drama "The Waiting City" follows an Australian couple (Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton) to India, where they hope to finalize their adoption of a baby girl. Though it calls for discerning viewership, director Claire McCarthy's well-crafted exploration of emotional bonds and spiritual horizons pits transcendent values against secular ones (L, R).
And here, also in alphabetical order, the 10 best family films:
A swashbuckling sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" sees a brother and sister (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) from World War II-era Britain once again transported to the titular world, this time accompanied by their obnoxious, cynical cousin (Will Poulter). Director Michael Apted's screen version of C.S. Lewis' classic Christian-themed allegorical novel keeps faith front and center (A-II, PG).
The enchanting 3-D animated comedy "Despicable Me" follows the rivalry of a slightly wicked but ultimately softhearted rogue (voice of Steve Carell) with a nerdy newcomer (voice of Jason Segel) for the title of world's most terrible villain. Co-directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin serve up a delightfully humorous conversion tale spun around themes of loyalty and the transformative power of family love (A-I, PG).
"How to Train Your Dragon" is a robust animated fantasy about a teenaged Viking (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who goes against his own people by befriending the creatures his society has been battling for 300 years. Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois have fashioned an engaging boy's own action-adventure with a constructive pacifist message (A-II, PG).
A stirring, satisfying update of the 1984 hit, "The Karate Kid" shifts the action to modern China, where an unassuming kung fu master (Jackie Chan) teaches an undersized American boy (Jaden Smith) how to confront a bully while imparting other life lessons. Director Harald Zwart balances fealty for the crowd-pleasing original with embellishments that enhance the appeal of this timeless underdog story (A-II, PG).
"Megamind," a generally endearing animated adventure, recounts how a good-hearted, perpetually inept alien villain (voice of Will Ferrell) finally defeats his longtime superhero rival (voice of Brad Pitt) -- also a visitor to Earth -- only to find that mastery of the city the good guy once protected is not all he had dreamed. Director Tom McGrath's diverting comedy features worthy lessons about making positive use of talents and abilities and about the dangers of allowing others to define who you are (A-II, PG).
In "Nanny McPhee Returns," the eerie but magically effective matron of the title (Emma Thompson) transports herself to wartime Britain, where she comes to the rescue of a frazzled rural mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal). As written by Thompson and directed by Susanna White, this sequel tells a sweetly nostalgic tale underpinned by lessons about cooperation, sharing, courage and the need to believe in happy endings (A-I, PG).
"Ramona and Beezus" is a gentle, winning comedy about a good-hearted but accident-prone 9-year-old (Joey King) whose antics annoy her more conventional teen sister (Selena Gomez). Traditional values and close-knit family relationships reign in director Elizabeth Allen's squeaky-clean, nostalgia-tinted adaptation of Beverly Cleary's best-selling series of children's books (A-I, G).
A heartwarming, decidedly less raucous animated riff on fairy tales, "Shrek Forever After" brings the blockbuster franchise full circle as the titular ogre (voiced by Mike Myers) experiences a midlife crisis and is tricked by an evil wizard (voice of Walt Dohrn) into living a different version of his past. Director Mike Mitchell and colleagues affirm the values of love and fidelity in a manner that should gladden parents (A-II, PG).
In "Tangled," a traditional animated offering based on the Rapunzel story, a golden-haired damsel (voice of Mandy Moore) imprisoned in a tower by an evil crone (voice of Donna Murphy) escapes with the help of a boastful thief (voice of Zachary Levi). An equally dynamic and wholesome vehicle for its "love conquers all" theme, directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard's fantasy blends lighthearted romance and vigorous action sequences into an entertaining whole (A-I, PG).
Director Lee Unkrich's "Toy Story 3" makes for a satisfying, action-packed conclusion to the trilogy and offers valuable lessons on the importance of family, friendship, and destiny as Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the "Roundup Gang" consider their options when their owner, Andy (John Morris), heads to college and puts away his childish things (A-I, G).