Monday, January 11, 2010

Now that we're a week into 2010 I've had time to think about all the movies I saw in the last year and I've added a few to the list I posted a couple weeks back. In addition to that list I've seen:

43. Avatar
44. Sherlock Holmes
45. (500) Days of Summer
46. Trick 'R' Treat (Which I forgot on the last list)
47. Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party

So based on what I've seen here's my favorite movies of the past year in alphabetical order, along with some honorable mentions.

(500) Days of Summer
As the poster says this is not a love story, it's a story about love. Yes Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom is in love with Zooey Deschanel's Summer, but that doesn't make their story a love story. In fact for a good portion of those titular 500 days Tom is pining for Summer from afar. It's a romantic comedy that doesn't follow the normal "RomCom" formula. And I think it's the fact that it's not a formulaic movie that allows '500 Days' to rise above the romantic comedy genre and be one of the most original films of the year.

The movie unfolds out of order jumping from the end to the middle to the beginning and all around. The movie includes a dance number, animation, and so much more that sets it apart from anything you've seen this year.

Add to all that wonderful performances from two of the best actors of my generation, Levitt and Deschanel, and you have a wonderful little movie about love and the joy and heartache it can bring us. (Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language)

This is one film that I think most moviegoers passed by without a second glance, and in doing so I think they (and possibly you) did themselves a great disservice, as this is a wonderful film that captures the feelings of adolescence and being a teen in the 80s. I truly feel it will hold up as the film that does for the 80s what Dazed & Confused did for the 70s.

It is rated R for a reason as it has quite a bit of profanity, but it is an excellent dramedy that combines the angst of youth with the hopeful longing of love. Jesse Eisenberg captures the feelings of a young man in love as he pines for Kristen Stewart. The movie also has great performances from Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Ryan Reynolds. Even though it was sold as being by Greg Mottola, the director of "Super Bad" it's not a straight comedy like that film, so by prepared for something very different. (Rated R for language, drug use and sexual references.)

I can't say much more about this movie that you haven't already read elsewhere. The story is unoriginal, in fact it's basically Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas (Here's one easy way to compare how similar). But that doesn't change the fact that this was easily one of the best movie going experiences of the last few years.

James Cameron has created a brand new world entirely from scratch and it is one of the most breath-takingly beautiful things I have ever seen on film. This truly is one movie that you have to experience in the theater, there's no way, even with a 60inch 3D HDTV, that you can match the experience of seeing this in 3D on a stories tall screen.

And I have to give credit to Cameron for using 3D in a way that is not a gimmick but instead makes you feel like your looking at something real. Do yourself a favor and see this one in the theater and in 3D it will literally blow you away. (Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.)

When I was a kid there were movies that I saw, most of which were made for kids which were scary as hell. To name a few Gremlins, the Boat Scene from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, parts of The Neverending Story, and hands down the too scariest: Return to Oz and The Peanut Butter Solution. Return to Oz still freaks me out with the witch who can change heads and all kinds of scary creature running a terrifyingly rotten version of OZ. And The Peanut Butter Solution stuck with me so much that 20 years after watching it I could still remember scenes in vivid detail even though I couldn't think of the name of the movie or much of the plot. (it wasn't 2007 that I found the name in this wonderful article)

What does all this have to do with Coraline? Well it's a film in a similar vein it's made for kids and adults alike, but it's guaranteed to scare all but the toughest kids, especially with its final act when everything gets super creepy. But it's also a brilliant and beautiful movie with great stop-motion animation and a wonderful story based on the book by Neil Gaiman. I will admit the thrill of seeing it in 3D probably has something to do with it being on this list, but I think even in 2D it's probably still a great flick. (Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.)

District 9I think my review from August 17 says it best: "What I can say is this is one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve seen in years (since Donnie Darko to be exact) and possibly the best all around movie I’ve seen this year. Director Neill Blomkamp comes out of the gate with one of the most impressive debuts in years. (Again I think back to Donnie Darko and its promising director Richard Kelly and hope that Blomkamp capitalizes on his success a bit more than Kelly did.) But possibly the most amazing part of Blomkamp’s debut is seeing what he can do with only $30 million. With a limited budget, Blomkamp has done more than Michael Bay has done in both of the Transformers combined. The prawns are amazing and look real enough to touch, they’re so good in fact I think if real aliens showed up they might look fake next to them. And Blomkamp has done a great job of combining a great story with some amazing action pieces."
(Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language.)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Yes HP6 was mostly set-up for the final two films, but so was the book. But this movie also adds so much to the characters as they all deal with blooming love and the death of one of the most beloved characters in the series. The movie also moves the Harry/Ginny relationship at a much faster pace than the books, which I honestly was thankful for as I felt the book didn't play enough with their relationship and then didn't give them enough time to be a couple. I also like the interplay between Hermione and Ron as their feelings grow. And I have to agree with one critic I heard talking about the film the other day who said that there's not many film franchises which have been around as long as HP and continue to get better or at least stay on par with the last film in the series. This one had me counting the days until Parts 7 & 8 hit screens. (It also got me to go back and reread the entire series!) (Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.)

The Hurt Locker
This movie blew me away, pun intended, it's a gritty, violent war movie, yet it's also a brilliant film from director Kathryn Bigelow, who transports you to the Middle East and makes you experience what it's like to be in that war torn area. From my review on July 26: "I'll be honest at times I didn't want to feel like I was there, because some of the movie is so intense and hard to watch. But it would be a cheat to only let us experience the good moments, we have to understand the loss and pain that they feel as well. And maybe that's one reason this movie works so well, it gives us the whole picture, not just the good parts. The Hurt Locker may not be the happiest movie going experience this year, but it certainly is one of the best." (Rated R for war violence and language.)

I Love You, Man
As the word 'Bromance' has become more and more prominent in our society it was only a matter of time before someone made a straight up Bromance movie, and that movie is 'I Love You, Man.' The movie features two of my favorite comedic actors, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel and it's a testament to their ability that the movie doesn't fall flat on it's face. These two carry the movie with an amazing friendship full of hilariously awkward moments and hijinks. It's not as funny as some of the movie to come out of the Apatow crew, but it has the perfect balance of funny and sweet to make it one of my favorites of the year. (Rated R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references.)

Inglourious Basterds

It's appropriate that this is the one movie that I couldn't settle on just one poster for, as it is quite possibly my favorite movie of the year. The poster's for this, both the ones that were used to promote it and those that weren't were all so brilliant that it made it impossible to choose just one, so instead I choose the 3 above.

Now I should say that I'm not a die hard Quentin Tarrantino fan, in fact I think Pulp Fiction is one of the most over rated movies ever made. But I have enjoyed some of his past work. So I went into this movie expected a good film, since I had heard so much praise over it, but not much more. Buy was I wrong.

All the praise this movie has received has been accurate, it truly is a wonderful film and quite possibly Tarrantino's masterpiece. In the final line of the movie even hits that Tarrantino himself agrees. As with all QT movies there a lot of scenes which simply feature people sitting around talking, but some of those scenes, two in particular come to mind, are the most nail-bitingly intense scenes I saw this past year.

QT has outdone himself making a film that it full of wonderful performances, some surely career defining, a well paced plot, and more than one commentary on society. All in all this is easily QT's best and the 2.5 hour running time flies by faster than you could ever expect. (Rated R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality.)

Paranormal Activity
The one movie on this list that is so effective I may never watch it again. In fact I tried watching it again and about 25 min into it I remembered how much it effected me the first time and how I couldn't sleep for days and decided I didn't want to be that scared again. But it's still one of my favorite films of the year because it is the little movie that could and although I'm scared to death of it, I also really like it.

From my October 7th review: "While the activity starts out slow, the haunting gets progressively worse, with loud noises, shadows, and eventually physical activity. First time director Oren Peli succeeds by slowly ratcheting up the tension until you feel like you can’t take it anymore. In fact, at one point I thought to myself “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” It keeps getting worse and worse until it finally, thankfully, horribly ends. And like The Blair Witch Project before it the movie continues to haunt you long after you’ve left the theater." (Rated R for language.)

Star Trek
I grew up watching the original Star Trek films with my dad and then watching ST:TNG on television, so it was with somewhat sadness that I watched the entire franchise die a slow and painful death. And then it was announced that J.J. Abrams, the man behind some of my favorite shows Alias, Lost, heck even Felicity, was taking the helm and relaunching the series and I grew excited if a little anxious. But my fears were calmed a bit by the excellent casting and soon I couldn't wait for the film.

I was not disappointed as Abrams' Star Trek took a franchise which had been known for being more "logic" than action and made a great sci-fi action movie that not only pays tribute to the original, but has the nerve to be something completely different at the same time. I would have said this was the best sci-fi movie I've seen in a long time, but by the end of the summer District 9 had stolen that title. Instead I'll say it's my favorite Star Trek film of all time (yes it sits just above Wrath of Kahn in my book) and a great movie for Trekkers and Non-Trekkers alike. I should also mention that it is one of three movies this year that I remember bringing me to the brink of tears. (None actually made me cry, just tear up. On a side note the one thing that I can remember making me cry this year was the final episode of David Tennant's run on Doctor Who, although technically that was the beginning of this year.) For those wondering it's the opening scene that gets me every time. (Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.)
State of Play
I didn't see this one in theaters and apparently no one else did either. And it's really a shame too, because this is one of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time and it's also just a well rounded, well acted movie. With wonderful turns from all involved, including Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, and many more.

It's a top notch thriller that keeps you guessing almost the entire way through, and even has something to say about the newspaper business! Put it on your netflix queue because its one you need to see. (Rated PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content.)
From My Review on Feb 26, 2009: "I love action movies, from Die Hard to Bad Boys to The Bourne films, I could watch good (and some bad) action films over and over. And Taken falls into this category. It's the best action movie I've seen in a long time and easily matches the last Bourne film and Casino Royale as far as action goes. It's got a good plot, that also shines light on an actual problem going on all over the world, and just great, great action." And that pretty much sums it up for me. Simply on of the best action flicks to come along in a long, long time. (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.)

Trick 'R' Treat
I've been hearing about Trick 'r Treat for years now and based on what I had heard I was dying to see it. I've been waiting to see it at Halloween for at least the past 3 years but every Halloween would come and go without a mention of Trick 'r Treat. Finally this year Warner Bros. put the movie out on DVD and Blu-ray. While I wish the movie would have gotten a proper release I was just glad that I've been able to see it at all.

Trick 'r Treat is for all intents and purposes writer/director Michael Dougherty's love letter to halloween. He intertwines several short tales into one seamless narrative that is not only creepy but also hilarious at times. Maybe my favorite quote about the movie comes from Home Cinema Choice's Anton Van Beek who said "Trick 'r Treat is a film designed to delight rather than disgust its audience." It feels more like a throwback to the horror films of the 80s than today's "horror" movies which are more about torture and gross-out scenes than actual scares. Simply put this is the best Halloween movie to come along in years. (Rated R for horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.)

Up makes the list not because it's beautiful, it is, not because it's funny, it is, and not because it has a talking dog, it does. No Up makes the list because it has one of the most poignant and heartbreaking scenes of any movie in it's opening sequence, much of which involves almost no dialogue. For that reason alone it is one of the best movies of the year. This is the second movie of the year to make me tear up. (Rated PG for some peril and action.)

Strangely Zombieland is the third movie that made me tear up this year, (probably not so strange is that all three movies that caused me to tear up involved scenes that had something to do with being a father, a lot changes when you have a kid of your own) but this is also one of the most fun movies of the past year. The second movie on the list to feature Jesse Eisenberg, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.

The movie is about one thing, killing zombies, and Zombieland does for killing Zombies what Inglourious Basterds did for killing Nazis, it makes it look fun. Sure it also makes it look like a terrifying world to actually live in, but when it's as fun as these guy make it it can't be that bad, right?

The movie also stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin and has a cameo so brilliant I don't want to ruin it, but I will say it was originally supposed to be Patrick Swayze. There's really not much more to say about the film, it's about killing Zombies and if you like that you'll have a blast with the movie, if you don't, you likely will hate it. (Rated R for horror violence/gore and language.)

Honorable Mentions:


I have a long history with this movie, which you can read about here, so I was excited to see it in theaters. It wasn't one of the best movies of the year, but it's still one of my favorites, if only because we finally got the chance to see it. Yes it's not the cut I want to see, because I want to see Director Kyle Newman's cut of the film, but at least we got a sweeter story that includes a cancer storyline, than a crude movie with no heart. You can listen to Newman talk in depth at the battle that went on to get this movie made, and released here, and it's a great listen that I highly recommend.

But what did I think of the movie? Here's a quote from my review on February 17: "So I'm sure you're asking yourself, was it worth the wait? And I answer, Definitely! The movie is really a love letter to Star Wars, Fanboys, and friends. And I can honestly say if you're a fan of Star Wars you will enjoy this movie. The movie is basically Star Wars joke after Star Wars joke, with a few jokes at the expense of Star Trek thrown in for fun. And my friend and I had a blast, and from the sound of the people around us, they had just as much fun as we did." I'll add that even if you're not a Star Wars fan, it's a pretty great road trip comedy as well. (Rated PG-13 for pervasive crude and sexual material, language and drug content.)

Gran Torino
The only reason this movie is an honorable mention is because, like the next film on the list, it wasn't released in 2009. Technically it was in limited release in 2008 so it's an honorable mention. Here's how I felt about it when I reviewed it on March 5: "I have to admit I avoided this movie for awhile, because while it looked good, it also looked like your typical drama, which can sometimes be tedious to watch. But not only is Gran Torino not tedious, it's pretty hilarious. The movie is one of the most genuinely funny movies I've seen in a long time. Who knew Eastwood was such a comedian. I throughly enjoyed this movie, and really think it's probably one of the better films to be released in 2008."

Gran Torino is also one of the best Eastwood movies I have ever seen. I'd put it up there with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in my book. It's moving and funny, and just an all around good movie. (Rated R for language throughout, and some violence.)

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party
This year I discovered the SlashFilmcast, a weekly podcast devoted to talking about movies new and old. A couple of times this year they had character actor Stephen Tobolowsky on the show. Tobolowsky is one of those notorious "that guy's" someone you see in all kinds of TV and Movies, and although you may not know his name you know you've seen him countless times. Most people probably know Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day. Anyways Tobolowsky told several wonderful stories on those podcast that eventually led to his own podcast from the guys behind the SlashFilmcast called The Tobolowsky Files.

The Tobolowsky Files is now my favorite podcast EVER, and is something I look forward to each and every week. Tobolowsky's tails range from the fantastic to heartbreaking, covering everything from young love to the life and death of his mother. His tails have made me laugh and they have made me cry, which can be a problem as I am usually driving when I listen to them. But there's another reason I love them, they lead me to the main reason the podcast exists, the 2005 movie Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party.

In STBP, Tobolowsky is preparing for his birthday party, cooking food, greeting guests, etc and as he does so he he regals the audience, and his guests, with tales from his many years of working in Hollywood. Again here his tails range the spectrum and made me both laugh and cry.

In both the movie and the podcast Tobolowsky proves himself to be a Master Storyteller the likes of which hasn't been seen in quite some time. That's why this movie gets an honorable mention, because it is one of the most touching and honest films I saw this year. By inviting us into his home and his life as he shares his tales Tobolowsky allows us to connect with him in a way that make his stories even more meaningful. It also doesn't hurt that Tobolowsky, in his podcast, gives out both his Twitter account and his e-mail address so that fans can contact him. And from everything I've seen he responds to each and every person who contacts him. In fact when I was having a hard time getting a copy of STBP, Stephen mailed me one himself, which is how I got an autographed copy made out to me personally. In doing this Tobolowsky has proven that he's not only a world class story teller and a wonderful actor, but also that he's also a classy one. (Unrated)

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my Favorite Films of 2009. If you haven't seen some of them on the list why not head out and check them out for yourself. And while you're here let me know what films you loved this past year and what you thought of my list.


Post a Comment