The Best and the Worst of 2009
Top 10 Movies
1) Avatar *****
After being out of the movie directing game for 12 years following his mega-hit Titanic, James Cameron’s new film understandably became the most eagerly anticipated release of 2009 and despite hype that was so overblown it seemed almost possible for the actual film to live up to expectations, it actually did live up the hype, proving to be not only the most visually stunning movie of the year but also a film with as much going on beneath the surface as coming out of the screen courtesy of 3D. Put simply Avatar is a truly amazing movie that has to be seen to be believed.
2) Star Trek *****
For some time the Star Trek franchise had been struggling to keep its place in the world of movies and television. All but the most loyal of fans had moved on and the mainstream audience had all but lost interest. What it took to reinvigorate the ailing franchise was some new blood and this is exactly what it got from J.J. Abrams who reinvented Star Trek for a whole new generation, delivering one of the spectacular and entertaining movies whilst also managing not to alienate the existing fan base. Easily one of the best sci-fi movies in years, this should bring about a whole new level of interest in space based science fiction blockbusters.
3) Up *****
Pixar. That’s all that I really need to say about this film. As, after all, everything Pixar makes is pure gold. But, I will say a bit more. Following the sensational Wall-E was never going to be an easy thing to do but Up manages to do and in fantastic style. Sure to be ranked not as only as one of Pixar’s finest movies to date but also one of the best animated movies of all time, this film has it all – adventure, humour, heart, fantastic characters and a great story, not to mention amazing animation and 3D effects. This film shows that Pixar are still the kings of the computer animation world and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
4) Adam *****
One of the 2009 releases that sadly didn’t get seen by many people due to a very limited release in cinemas, Adam is a film that really deserves more recognition than what it has received. Tackling the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome in a sensitive and heart warming manner it is both an enjoyably offbeat romcom and a sincere, moving and realistic look at how Asperger’s Syndrome affects those afflicted with it. The fact that it manages to pull off a somewhat downbeat ending whilst still leaving you with a warm feeling is a particular strength of this delightful romance that easily beats any of the generic romance films released by Hollywood this year.
5) (500) Days of Summer *****
Another offbeat romance that like the aforementioned Adam was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival, (500) Days of Summer is probably one of the most refreshing and unique romantic comedies seen in some time. An original idea is presented in a fresh and appealing manner and despite the potentially downbeat nature of the story the film never depresses or loses its charm and warmth. A definite must see for anyone tired of the predictable fluff that Hollywood churns out time and time again.
6) Bandslam *****
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the top ten, Bandslam is a film that came completely under the radar, so much so that despite great reviews it bombed terribly at the box office, i.e. hardly anyone actually saw it, and it is a great shame because there is so much more to it than you might expect. Not a High School Musical knockoff as the marketing might have you believe but rather an enjoyable and moving indie style music drama based around music quite unlike what most kids are listening to these days. A truly delightful feel-good film that deserves to be seen, and if you are in the majority that hasn’t seen it, I greatly urge you to do so.
7) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button *****
While criticisms that this film resembles Forrest Gump certainly have a degree of validity, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button nonetheless proves to be a truly beautiful and moving film. A film about life and love, the story spans across an entire life time, perfectly capturing both the joy and the sadness that comes with the passing of time. A film that will warm your heart and make you cry, this is should stand the test of time and be fondly remembered for a long time to come.
8) The Secret of Moonacre *****
One of the most underappreciated films of the year, The Secret of Moonacre was something of a flop with both moviegoers and critics. And it is a real shame as it is a truly delightful little fantasy flick. It may not have the big scale of effects of other bigger fantasy movies but it manages to be both beautiful and charming in ways that a number of other fantasy efforts have failed to. Don’t listen to the naysayers, this is a film that has lots going for it, if only people would give it a chance.
9) Monsters Vs Aliens 3D *****
Best seen in 3D, Monsters Vs Aliens is probably DreamWorks Animation’s best movie yet. Terrific animation that almost rivals that of fellow animation studio Pixar is backed up a hugely entertaining story and humour that is as witty and clever as it is funny. Paying homage to classic alien and monster B movies, the film doesn’t fall on the pop culture references of many other DreamWorks movies but some generally quite smart gags and in-jokes that will offer as much for older viewers to enjoy as younger ones. And the 3D effects are without a doubt some of the best seen yet.
10) Where the Wild Things Are *****
A bit of an oddity, this one is. Given that Where the Wild Things Are is based on a book for children you would expect a film for children. But, director Spike Jonze’s promise of making a “children’s film for adults” is one that the film lives up to. Certainly a film that not everyone will appreciate this as much a study of the imagination of the child at the heart of the story as it is the fantasy flick you would probably expect. Technically superb, this is a film with plenty to offer but you really need to see it with an open mind and for maximum appreciation repeat viewings may be warranted.
NOTE: Toy Story 3D is not included in the top ten due it being a re-release of an older film.
Bottom 10 Movies
1) Lesbian Vampire Killers NO STARS
Recipe for an awful film – take two of the most annoying unfunny and unfunnily annoying ‘comedians’ that Britain has to offer, make them the stars of their own film, then base that film around a concept so thin that it would barely support a short sketch. This pretty much sums up Lesbian Vampire Killers, the single worst movie of the year and one of the worst movies ever made. Avoid at all costs.
2) Dance Flick ½
Easily one of the least surprising additions to the bottom ten, Dance Flick continues the downward trend of the once great spoof movie genre. Where once such films featured smart and witty homages now they are lowest common denominator, and with Dance Flick it seems that even the lowest common denonominator doesn’t care about these films anymore, as gladly this was rejected by moviegoers as well as critics. Here’s hoping we will be spared more of this rubbish in the future.
3) Observe and Report ½
Seth Rogen – one of the most overrated comedy stars of the last few years. At least in this critic’s opinion anyway. And possibly an opinion that is being embraced by the mainsteam moviegoing audience as well judging by the lowsy reception of his 2009 releases, of which Observe and Report is the worst. However, it nearly managed a higher rating and were it not for the sick and offensive date rape scene this film wouldn’t wouldn’t be slightly less awful, the emphasis being on slightly.
4) Fighting *
A drama that suffers from a case of pure predictability, a mediocre story and dull characters, Fighting takes ideas from other better movies and does nothing with them, making for a film that is just plain boring and will only be enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t seen the countless the films it rips off. Frankly, even they probably won’t be very impressed.
5) I Love You, Beth Cooper *
Chris Columbus was never a particularly good film director but even he is better than this trash. A teen comedy that is sorely lacking in the comedy department, this is a film that actually had some promise and in the hands of a capable director, or even Chris Columbus at his prime, could have been a decent, if forgettable teen flick. Forgettable I Love You, Beth Cooper certainly is but it doesn’t even come close to being decent, in fact being rendered nearly unwatchable but for a few slightly redeeming features.
6) The Unborn *
It is very easy to make a bad horror movie. In fact some of the worst movies are horror films, and The Unborn is just the latest in a long line of them. Failing to be particularly scary and being completely unoriginal in every respect, this has little value, even as a throwaway horror film. Only the most undemanding of moviegoers will get any appreciation out of this.
7) Jennifer’s Body *
By horror genre standards, Jennifer’s Body was a very heavily hyped film. And this hype was based around two things – Juno writer Diablo Cody being the scriptwriter and star Megan Fox being hot. Well, it seems that Diablo Cody was a one hit wonder, her script work here being lowsy, her delivering an incoherent story and intertextual references that mostly miss the mark. And Megan Fox being hot is very subjective. So, again, another horror movie that fails to deliver, but unlike some others this only actually showed some promise, so it is something of a disappointment.
8) The Final Destination 2D *
You’ll notice that only the 2D version of The Final Destination appears in the bottom ten. This is because the 3D version has just enough merit to earn itself two stars, just enough to keep clear. The fact that the film was made for 3D is the big problem here. Whereas previous films in the Final Destination series actually had decent storylines and dealt with some smart ideas, this one does little more than deliver a series of death scenes designed to utilise 3D effects, and the 3D comes at the expense of everything else. It is just a gimmick, and then not a particularly good one, and there is really no point in a 2D version of the film actually existing because without 3D the film has nothing to offer.
9) New in Town *
The only romantic comedy to find itself in the bottom ten, New in Town is a perfect example of everything that can be done wrong in a Hollywood romcom. It fails to be very funny, doesn’t deliver much worth mentioning in the way of romance and its stereotypical portrayals of many of the characters are almost offensive. It’s a shame to see a cast that is actually pretty talented appear in such a poorly produced product.
10) The Haunting in Connecticut *½
A horror film that has some redeeming features but ultimately still ends up failing, due to an over reliance on cliché, The Haunting in Connecticut lacks flair and panache, being presented as a generic horror flick when it had the potential to be an interesting psychological piece. No doubt many people will appreciate the film much more than me but in this critic’s opinion this is not a film worth wasting your time on when there are other similar efforts that do a much better job.
By Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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