compiled by Jean Kelchner and Lucy Severini, written by Jean

With or without the popcorn, our Top Picks will entertain, inspire, and bring you pleasure, plus, you won’t have to scratch your head wondering what happened.

1.  The King’s Speech – Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter and directed by Tom Hooper.

O k-k-k-kay, we know that there are no surprises here because this is on everyone’s list—even the Queen of England’s, since Colin Firth plays her father, King George VI with dignity.  The film deals with the King’s stutter—most people feared he was dysfunctional at the time—and his relationship with his speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush.  They are outstanding.  Oh, and Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Margaret Rose, are seen playing princess-like in happy little family scenes.

2.  City Island – starring Andy Garcia and Julianne Margulies and directed by Raymond de Filetta

The Rizzo family lives on City Island, a real island off the mainland of the Bronx that most people don’t know exists—we didn’t.  They appear to be an ordinary blue collar family but when Vince, the father, a prison guard played by Andy Garcia, decides to secretly take acting lessons, they become anything but ordinary.

3.  Shutter Island – starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley, and directed by Martin Scorcese.

This is a psychological nail-biter. DiCaprio plays a U.S. Marshal who investigates the disappearance of a woman from a locked room in an insane asylum on an island near Boston.  Soon he begins to doubt his own sanity, and so do we.

4.  Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – starring Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf, and directed by Oliver Stone.

Twenty-three years ago, Michael Douglas turned himself into Gordon Gekko in Wall Street I.  He’s back.  He’s just out of prison and disgraced.  But a Douglas/ Gekko, with more maturity and softer edges, has only gotten better.  This film is smart and classy, and we think Douglas and the film should have gotten some recognition during award season.

5. Mao’s Last Dancer – starring Chi Cao, directed by Bruce Beresford

Based on the autobiography of Li Cunxin, at one time, a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet, this is an inspirational movie—the kind people clap for when it’s over.  Li Cunxin was eleven when he was taken from his poor Chinese village to study ballet in Beijing.  In 1979, he fell in love with an American dancer and defected to the United States.  Not the popular thing to do.  It is a beautiful movie with lots of red—we love RED (the color).

6.  The Millenium Trilogy – starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was adapted from best selling novels written by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson who died of a heart attack, never knowing what an international hit his work would be.  (Jean, being a writer, finds that very sad.)

We like the first one best, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In fact, Lucy suggested we only recommend the first one because it stands on its own, but she finally agreed that Lisbeth Salander deserves a bigger stage; besides, I really liked the last one where Lisbeth nails her crazy half-brother’s feet to the floor.  Hint:  See these before the American versions come out with Daniel Craig.  It should be great fun to compare.

7.  RED –  is an acronym for “Retired Extremely Dangerous”, and it stars some old favorites–Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman.  Mary Louise Parker plays Willis’ love interest.  Directed by Robert Schwenke.

They were once a team, now out of the business, but when someone tries to kill their leader, played by Willis, the big guns come out.  It’s lots of fun!!!

8.  The Fighter – Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, directed by David O. Russell.

This is a boxing movie based on the early career of a welter-weight from the Boston area named “Irish” Micky Ward.  I hate boxing movies, except for “the Rockys” but agree with Lucy that this film holds three of the best performances of the year—Amy Adams, who plays Micky’s girlfriend; Melissa Leo, who plays Micky’s mother; and Christian Bale, who plays Micky’s half-brother.  Bale’s performance is not just good, it’s great!!!

9.  Winter’s Bone – starring Jennifer Lawrence, ShelleyWaggoner, Garret Dillahunt and John Hawkes, directed by Debra Granik.

This is a little film that played mostly in Art Houses.  Jennifer Lawrence plays, Ree, a poor mountain girl whose mother is sick in the head and whose father has disappeared.  She goes in search of him in order to keep her family together, but mountain business that used to be moonshine is now crystal meth and mountain folk don’t even like kinfolk poking around.  This film pulls us in where the winter filled Ozarks are stark and cold—to the bone.

10.  True Grit – starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfield, Josh Brolin, and directed by the Coen Brothers.

Every movie list should include a Western and this one is pretty good.  (It’s a remake of the John Wayne one who played the character Rooster Cogburn in two films.)  Even though we both like Bridges, I didn’t like him in this film.  He was too dirty and too drunk and too dull.  Lucy, on the other hand, thought he made the role his own and did a good job with it.  Maybe I would have liked him better if he’d had a little hitch in his step.  We agree that Matt Damon seemed out of place galloping around on a horse, and that Hailee Steinfield wowed playing the fourteen  year old, Mattie.  She’s ‘fodder’ for an Award.

These are our picks.  Check them out and let us know what you think. . . . . . .

In the meantime . . . See you at the movies!!!