Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

A mere eleven films vie for my top ten of 2009, which I’ll announce tomorrow (not too much suspense this year!) as well as my favorites among the year's acting, writing, and directing.

I’ve viewed 65 films theatrically this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [11]
1. Capitalism: A Love Story. Yet another sadly accurate look at us.
2. District 9. Somewhat unpleasant to watch in a way, but timely and true, with a staggeringly star-caliber performance by its unknown lead.
3. Fanboys. Despite potential nerd-only appeal and "franchise 'parody' fatigue," has a certain charm.
4. The Hurt Locker. Original setting and charismatic lead performance.
5. I Love You, Man. A comedy touchdown, particularly for Paul Rudd; many laughs that work-- many, many.
6. Inglourious Basterds. Outrageously entertaining.
7. Julie & Julia. Delightful instantly-ready-for-TCM classic, weaves its two stories together in a nice little package.
8. Nine. Spectacle over story, nonetheless a showcase for a (mostly) ready ensemble.
9. Paranormal Activity. Deceptively simple treatise on relationships— studyable; oh yeah, scary too.
10. Up. Sweet and inventive-- as well as, dare I say, upliftling?
11. World's Greatest Dad. Cynical as all hell, but just dead-on.

Recommended [15]
1. Adventureland. Satisfying and funny and well cast if perhaps missing a certain 'punch.'
2. Broken Embraces. Assuredly directed with some great twists although it outstays it's welcome a bit.
3. Coraline. Not deep, but created a world that was facinating to behold and where I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
4. Extract. Skin-of-it's-teeth recommendation, has several (and just enough) laughs.
5. The Hangover. The only film that I can recommend and yet admit that the best part was the end credits.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Fully immerses the viewer in its imaginative (now pleasantly familiar) fantasy world, marred only by a "middle chapter" climax.
7. Me and Orson Welles. Safe but sure.
8. Monsters Vs. Aliens. Just barely pulls it off, mainly due to Seth Rogen's blob B.O.B. stealing the show.
9. Moon. More "Twilight Zone" than "2001: A Space Odyssey," probably won't be much on a second viewing.
10. Sherlock Holmes. Nice work in creating an updated Holmes/Watson without losing the 'elementary' mystery-solving, although it's too bad that this particular story wasn't more intriguing.
11. Star Trek. Light and fun, with exceptional ensemble.
12. Sunshine Cleaning. Not for the ages and just a mild payoff, but well cast and well played.
13. Up in the Air. Timely and funny yet its insistence on an epiphany for a broadly-drawn lead character leaves you cold; therefore a mild recommendation
14. Whip It. Formula well done with a perfect cast.
15. Zombieland. Runs out of steam, but mostly an enjoyable popcorner.

Skippable [29]
1. 2012. Its outrageousness is right on, but also gets to be unrelenting.
2. A Christmas Carol. Well done with a strong Jim Carey in the various roles-- its main problem is the hopeless familiarity of the material.
3. Amelia. Pleasant show, but little more.
4. An Education. Over-rated mishmosh; despite Carey Mulligan's reviews, Rosamund Pike steals the show.
5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Compelling subject matter, but despite a solid midsection, gets repetetive and has a fabricated third act.
6. Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans. Entertaining and off-the-wall but still could've pushed the boundaries further.
7. Bruno. A number of Boratesque shocks, but an even thinner plotline and far too many obvious set-ups make it no classic.
8. Crazy Heart. Nice blend of character and story is derailed by a lazy third act.
9. Drag Me To Hell. Yes it was "fun"-- but at the same time it was also far too obvious.
10. Duplicity. Everyone works hard but the plot relies (as with Gilroy's "Michael Clayton") far too much on its ending than the journey.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Visually exciting and amusing but thematically muddled.
12. Food, Inc. Has a number of interesting points, but strictly small screen stuff.
13. He's Just not that Into You. If a guy sat through this movie with you he MUST be into you.
14. Invictus. Unique approach to political biography is far too safe in its cinematic translation.
15. Jennifer's Body. Had all the elements but one: characterization.
16. The Messenger. Engrossing premise that allows it's actors to breathe; doesn't seem to have that element that would make it worthwhile on a second viewing.
17. Michael Jackson's This Is It. A nice tribute, but surface; however, the music alone makes it worth viewing— can't argue there.
18. New in Town. Hoped for charming and funny, got mild and harmless.
19. Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian. Barely squeaks by as anything entertaining, a timewaster at best.
20. Pirate Radio. Thin but enjoyable.
21. Precious. Doesn't give you much that you didn't get in the trailer; in other words too heavy on the message.
22. A Serious Man. When you get to the end of it, despite how much you liked it, the ends don't match; best seen as part of the Coen's oeuvre.
23. A Single Man. Ultimately, nothing we haven't seen before.
24. Terminator: Salvation. Coasts on the strength of its predecessors; never dull, but rarely made sense.
25. The Informant! Couldn't find its tone and felt longer than it was, even if I was amused by it.
26. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not the disaster critics are making it out to be, nor the exciting popcorn flick its fanboys say it is either-- the preteen boy in me gives it a pass for its mindless excess.
27. Watchmen. Bit off more than it could chew and even got somewhat laughable by the end.
28. Whatever Works. Stagey and dated, miraculously saved by some terrific performances, particularly by Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Begley Jr.
29. X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Formulaic popcorn flick, with an all-too-obvious eye on future dollars by the introduction of new superflous characters.

Avoid [10]
1. (500) Days of Summer. Hopelessly self-conscious.
2. Avatar. Cliché-ridden and overlong, the sense of wonder is stiffled by a total lack of suspense.
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Cute just isn't good enough.
4. Is Anybody There? Barely worthy of a one hour television drama: no meat on the bone.
5. My Bloody Valentine (3D). Retro it is: 1960s Scooby-Doo plot, 1950s 3-D effects, and 1910s acting; and I could have lived with all of that, but ultimately, it just wasn't fun enough.
6. New Moon. Just needed one more scene with two characters talking to each other and it would have been perfect.
7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Embarassing, and just barely palatable despite all of Kevin James' (considerable) efforts.
8. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Pointless-- with little attempt to update the '74 original with '09 technology.
9. Where the Wild Things Are. Boring.
10. Year One. Uninspired going-through-the-paces execution.

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