Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My top 10 movies of 2009 (amended)

Wow, 2009 was not the best year for movies ever. My top 5 is strong, but after reviewing all the movies I've seen in 2009, it was a struggle to pick movies after that. This is list is pretty much Top 5 movies of the year and 5 others that were "just a bit better than ok". Half of the top 10 are genres that I don't usually favor to begin with.
Let's take it from the top...

1. Star Trek




This was the clear cut winner of the year. I'm not a trekie. I'm not much of a sci-fi fan. Interesting that my top 2 are sci-fi movies. Star Trek 2009 version had me and my girlfriend crying from the first sequence. The story was great and easy to get into for someone with a limited Trek knowledge. The effects were great. The Abrams direction was cool too but that weird sparkle light effect that he loves can be annoying. Otherwise, this felt like a perfect film and I'm looking forward to the next one, should it be made.


2. Pontypool




Pontypool was not originally on this list. While reviewing the movies that were released in 2009, Pontypool was not on the list. That was because this film was only released in Canada. And what a shame. One of the biggest disappointments for me is the watering down of the zombie movie. I used to love them but now there is a new one everyday and they're all the same. Pontypool isn't necessarily a zombie movie the same was 28 Days Later wasn't. The victims are not the undead, they're infected with a virus. The amazing thing about it is that the infected are barely in the movie. The entire movie is about a radio host that is getting reports of the infection. We hear what's going on and deal with the fear of not really knowing what's going on. I'll save what the cause of the infection is because it's both confusing and interesting at the same time. I purposefully avoid information on most movies I really want to see because I don't want to know what to expect and I suggest you rent this in the same frame of mind.


3. District 9




I wasn't sure what to expect from District 9. I knew it was an allegory for apartheid using Aliens. But that was about it. The posters and trailers didn't give to much away, which I'm thankful for. The story was mostly well done (a few cliches but nothing distracting). There were some great action/chase/shootout scenes. I thought I would hate the apartheid comparison, but if you didn't think about it too much, it wasn't a big deal. Honestly, District 9 would have tied Trek for first, but I had 2 main gripes with the film. The first was the directing. From the preview, I knew it was going to be docu-style fiction. I looked forward to a film of this nature using this type of gimmick because it seemed well done and interesting and for the first half it is. We see this world through the eyes of a documentary that's being made and then later on through security feeds. Then it turns into a standard style movie. I though this was a terrible change. I'm not exactly sure how the rest of the movie would have worked had they not changed it, but it could have been done. My second point of contention was the effects. I'd say overall, they were great, but I think the movie should have been released after a little more time was spent on the animation of the aliens. At times, especially during scenes with a large group of characters, they had a copy and paste feeling to them. Like when the honey comb bee is added to a commercial. Otherwise, an excellent film overall.


4. Duplicity




Duplicity is a film I probably wouldn't have rented because the previews come off very romantic-comedy-ish. That I've become a huge Clive Owen fan (since his amazing performance in Sin City) is what forced me to watch. I'm glad I did. Great acting job by some high class actors like Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, et al. Turns out there are some romantic-comedy elements to the story, but it's not the focus. The focus is a con game, much in the vein of an Ocean's Eleven with a twist ending that you don't quiet expect even though you kinda of know what to expect with this kind of movie.


5. Watchmen




Watchmen should have been a trilogy. It's a huge graphic novel, with a lot of story to tell. The movie, went on way too long. My emotions for watchmen came in 3 cycles. The first time I saw it, it was a cut above ok. I liked it a lot, but was expecting something different. Upon second viewing, I liked it a lot more, almost loved it. I paid more attention to the smaller details. By the third viewing, I was bored. In a perfect world, Watchmen would have filmed the entire graphic novel and then cut it up into 3 two hour movies a la The Matrix, Lord Of The Rings, etc.


6. Monsters Vs. Aliens




This was the second genre that I'm not such a fan of. The animated movie. Being a child of the 80's, I like my cartoons flat and with repeating backgrounds. 3-D animation is not my cup of tea, but I gave M Vs. A a shot and I'm glad I did. It's funny flick with some great voice work from Seth Rogan and company.


7. Up




Up was a strange choice for a kids movie. It's really depressing. Within the first 15 mins or so, the main characters wife dies and the husband becomes a crotchety old man. Not usually a recipe for a great kids movie. The death scene is touching and heartwrenching but the rest of the film is pretty funny. It's a sad, heartwarming story but a must miss of you don't want to cry.


8. Rudo Y Cursi




This is likely the film where you're going, "huh"? I'd read some favorable statements about the film when it was making the indy rounds and remembered the name and gave it a shot. Most familiar about this film is Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal who is becoming a star for his earlier foreign films and is now making the transition to Hollywood (which is mixed at best with his last American film being the horrid Blindness). The knock I have on this movie is that you totally see it coming. It's well acted and funny and there is a charm to it, but it's been done before. It's the story of two brothers who get chosen for pro soccer teams and form a rivalry. You can tell the second I say that, that this film will be about how each one will go on different paths and eventually lead into a brother vs. brother finale with one making a sacrifice for the other after learning a lesson. Cliche but it's still fun to watch the performances of Bernal and Diego Luna as his brother.


9. Disney's Earth




Disney's Earth is beautiful. It's the type of stuff that makes you go "how did they get that on camera". This was the most expensive documentary ever made, and it shows. If you're like me, you've heard that the Planet Earth series from the BBC was amazing but you just didn't have the patience to go through five discs of it. From what I'm told, this is the same stuff but re-produced in the style that Disney wanted. It's a fantastic piece of moving art. It is, however, like most other nature documentaries, pretty brutal. It's an unflinching look at how these animals live. All animals are part of a food chain and you see this process right before your eyes. Even understanding this, if you're an animal lover, it may become hard to watch.


10. Paranormal Activity




Paranormal Activity polarized movie audiences. It gained a huge audience and most people fell into the love category, or the hate category. I was one of the few that fell in between. I liked several things about the movie that made it an above average film for me. First of all the horror genre has become diluted to the point of absurdity. I used to love horror movies. Back in the day, even the bad one's were good. Now horror movies are so watered down and cliche that most just wind up sucking. Finally, something new happens with the genre. They pretty much took the mold of the Blair Witch Project (incidentally a film that polarized audiences the same way) and built up a better story. It's something that we haven't seen before. A low budget horror movie, offering something new that doesn't look like your 12 year old could have made it. The two leads were smart and competent despite the lack of acting credit on their resume and the story was actually creepy. I wasn't scared watching Paranormal Activity, but I got the willies. I rather be creeped out than scared. The feeling lasts a lot longer. This is probably a personal preference but I really liked the choice in lead actress a lot. When it comes to women, I tend to be attracted to more unconventionally beautiful women. I think Katie Featherston is very pretty and this enhanced the movie for me because I cared about what happened to her character. Ultimately, it fell flat because there was no real pay-off. The commercials made it seem creepier than it really was and the ending made you jump but also left you unsatisfied. You walked out saying "that's it?". My girlfriend made a perfect comparison. She said, "You know those videos you send to your friends that make you stare at the screen and jump at the end? This was like a movie version of that.".


11. Not Easily Broken*




Another head scratcher. Not Easily Broken is another genre that is not usually on my radar. The spiritual movie. The screenplay is based on a book written by T.D. Jakes. If you know Jakes, you know that he's one of the most well known Pastors out there. Not Easily Broken is the story of a couple that is struggling to stay a float after they get into a car accident that leaves the wife injured. The leads are played by Taraji P. Henson and Morris Chestnut, who are great. Kevin Hart, who plays one of Chestnut's friends, is hysterical. There's not much depth to the story, and is a bit cliche, but still resonates. I think there is something for everyone in a relationship to identify with. While watching I realized that, while T.D. Jakes is a Pastor, his stories aren't overwrought with the spiritual angle. The other novel he's written that was turned into a movie is called Woman Thou Art Loosed, which I also enjoyed. The church and the lord are there, but the film isn't bogged down by it. His stories are more about the flaws that people have and the struggle that we have to overcome them. If people want to think that God helps, who am I to judge?


*Was originally number 10 before I added Pontypool

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